Human Resources - Annual Report 2010
The Judicial Conference recognized in 2004 that staffing requirements would have to be rethought and restructured. Otherwise, annual increases in salaries and expenses would far outpace projected federal funding. As a result, new salary progressions have been put in place.
Judicial Survivors' Annuities System Open Season
In August 2009, the President signed into law the Judicial Survivors Protection Act of 2009 (Pub. L. No. 111-49), authorizing a six-month open season for all active, senior, and full-time recalled judges who previously opted not to enroll in the Judicial Survivors' Annuities System (JSAS). The JSAS provides annuity payments to spouses of deceased judges and also to their dependents until age 18, or age 22 if a full-time student. During the open season—from Sept. 11, 2009, to March 10, 2010—279 judges enrolled in JSAS, and 151 judges each made an 18-month deposit, to immediately vest their spouses and/or dependent children in JSAS. Judges who enrolled during the open season must contribute 2.75 percent of their salary through payroll deductions. The new legislation made no change to the contribution rate of 2.2 percent of salary for judges who were already participating in JSAS and for newly appointed judges who subsequently enroll in JSAS. The amount required for vesting reverted back to 3.5 percent of salary when the open season ended.
Performance Management and Contribution Based Pay
Beginning in October 2010, the number of automatic, or default, step increases that Court Personnel System (CPS) employees are eligible to receive has been reduced under a new step progression policy. The decision to limit automatic step increases was part of the Judiciary's cost-containment efforts; the Judicial Conference approved national performance guidelines to assist courts in awarding discretionary steps. Depending on a court's locally-developed performance management plan, employees may be eligible to receive additional discretionary step increases based on their performance. The AO continues to support implementation of this new policy by developing tools and resources for the courts, including an automated performance management application, ePerformance.
Employment Dispute Resolution
The Committee on Judicial Resources conducted an extensive review of the Judiciary's 1997 Model Employment Dispute Resolution Plan (Model EDR Plan) and recommended modifications based on 12 years of court experience with the plan. The Judicial Conference passed the amended Model EDR Plan on March 16, 2010.
The amended Plan:
- Specifies procedures for handling claims involving judges and mixed EDR/judicial misconduct cases;
- Extends the definition of harassment beyond sexual harassment to include all types of discrimination;
- Creates a special reporting process for wrongful conduct to bring these matters quickly to management's attention, even outside of the EDR process;
- Allows for summary dismissals throughout the process; and
- Clarifies the provisions dealing with remedies, notice, and confidentiality.
Court/AO Exchange Programs
The AO Director has instituted four court/AO exchange programs to promote effective working relationships among the AO, the courts, and defender organizations. The court/AO exchange programs have enabled court staff to come to the AO, and AO staff to spend time in the courts, resulting in greater collaboration and mutual understanding.
Director's Leadership Program
This program fosters awareness and understanding of AO and court operations through temporary staff relocation, and allows the AO to access the skills and knowledge of court employees for critical projects. Senior and mid-level court staff, including federal defender organization staff, come to the AO for up to one year to work on national initiatives and high-priority projects. Two outstanding court candidates were selected as residents for the 2010 Director's Leadership Program. Jason L. Kadzban, Assistant Systems Manager, U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Michigan, works in the AO's Office of Information Technology; and Olga L. Serrano, Electronic Monitoring Specialist, U.S. Pretrial Services Office for the Northern District of Illinois, is assigned to the AO's Office of Probation and Pretrial Services (OPPS).
AO Orientation and Knowledge Exchange Programs
These two programs enable AO staff to enhance their understanding of court operations and programs by experiencing them firsthand. In 2010, as part of the comprehensive orientation program, two groups of AO employees visited the First and Third Circuit Courts of Appeals and the Massachusetts and Eastern Pennsylvania district courts and defender organization units for week-long immersion in court and defender operations. In addition, other AO employees have benefitted from numerous individual visits to courts under the knowledge exchange program.
Temporary Duty Assignments Program
This program offers opportunities for court and AO staff to apply their specialized skills to projects outside their regular work responsibilities. The program aims to improve understanding of, and services to, the courts, and to enable court and defender organization staff to work at the AO, and AO staff to work in the courts and defender organizations. Temporary duty assignments range from a few weeks to a year, depending on project needs and staff availability, and may be based on-site or allow for a combination of teleworking and travel to and from the temporary duty site. In 2010, 52 court and defender organization staff worked with AO staff on temporary assignments.
Court Staffing in Response to Long-Term Budget Projections
In long-term budget projections several years ago, the Judiciary indentified staffing as one area where inflationary increases would outpace available resources unless costs were contained. Therefore, the Committee on Judicial Resources adopted three staffing cost-containment recommendations from an Ad Hoc Joint Advisory Group on Staffing designed to help hold staffing requirement to limits established by the Conference Committee on the Budget. Members of the advisory group were court executives and AO staff, along with judges who serve as liaisons to AO human resources and budget advisory groups. Their recommendations were:
This option recalculates the staffing formulas using only the fastest 90 percent (or 80 percent, or 70 percent, etc.) of the court units' work measurement data at the category level of work. A category level of work covers multiple tasks in a single process, such as a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case, civil case, or criminal case. The recalculations rely on Judicial Conference-approved staffing formulas and court-approved data.
This option is flexible for use in either a growth or reduction scenario and would calculate a change in requested staffing based on the marginal difference of the work measurement formulas results from year to year.
Attrition Rate Reduction
This option reflects the reality of staff turnover in courts. Under this scenario, the Judiciary would reduce its request by the number of separations experienced in the previous fiscal year.
In June 2010, the Committee on Judicial Resources formulated its budget request for fiscal year 2012 using the category-level formula adjustments. The Committee also announced its intent to use this same process for the foreseeable future when requests for full staffing exceed anticipated appropriations.