- What is the Judicial Conference of the United States? When was it established?
- What are the duties and responsibilities of the Judicial Conference?
- Who are the members of the Judicial Conference?
- When and where does the Judicial Conference meet?
- How does the Judicial Conference do its work?
- Who are the committee members and how are they appointed?
The Conference of Senior Circuit Judges was created by Congress in 1922, to "serve as the principal policy making body concerned with the administration of the United States Courts." In 1948, Congress enacted Section 331 of Title 28, U.S. Code, changing the name to the Judicial Conference of the United States. District judges formally were added to the Conference in 1957.
As in 1922, the fundamental purpose of the Judicial Conference today is to make policy with regard to the administration of the United States courts. Section 331 of Title 28 specifically provides that the Conference shall:
- Make a comprehensive survey of the conditions of business in the courts of the United States;
- Prepare plans for the assignment of judges to or from courts of appeals or district courts, where necessary;
- Submit suggestions to the various courts in the interest of promoting uniformity of management procedures and the expeditious conduct of court business;
- Exercise authority provided in 28 U.S.C. Section 372(c) for the review of circuit council conduct and disability orders filed under that section; and
- Carry on a continuous study of the operation and effect of the general rules of practice and procedure in use within the federal courts, as prescribed by the Supreme Court pursuant to law.
The Judicial Conference also supervises the Director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts in the performance of his duties as the administrative officer of the courts of the United States under 28 U.S.C. Section 604. In addition, certain statutes authorize the Judicial Conference to act in a variety of specific areas dealing with the administration of the courts.
The Chief Justice is required to submit to Congress an annual report of the proceedings of the Judicial Conference and its recommendations for legislation.
The Chief Justice of the United States is the presiding officer of the Judicial Conference. Membership is comprised of the chief judge of each judicial circuit, the chief judge of the Court of International Trade, and a district judge from each regional judicial circuit, who is elected for a term of not less than three nor more than five successive years as established by majority vote of all circuit and district judges of the circuit represented (28 U.S.C. Section 331).
The statute requires the Chief Justice to summon the Judicial Conference into session annually, at such time and place in the United States as he may designate. Traditionally the Chief Justice has convened two meetings of the Conference each year, one in September and one in March. The members are required to attend each session unless excused by the Chief Justice, who will then designate a replacement. The Conference generally meets in Washington, D.C.
The Conference operates through a network of committees created to address and advise on a wide variety of subjects, such as automation, personnel, probation and pretrial services, sentencing, space and security, and judicial salaries and benefits. The seven-member Executive Committee of the Judicial Conference serves as the senior executive arm of the Conference, acting on its behalf between sessions on matters requiring emergency action. Among it responsibilities, the Executive Committee reviews the jurisdiction of Conference committees, and establishes and publishes procedures for assembling Conference and committee agendas.
The Director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts serves as Secretary to the Judicial Conference. The assistant director of the Office of the Judicial Conference Executive Secretariat in the Administrative Office coordinates administrative support to the Conference itself and its Executive Committee. The person in this position also coordinates the activities of the Executive Secretariat, which consists of senior members of the Administrative Office's professional staff, who dedicate all or a substantial portion of their time to the work of the Judicial Conference and its committees.
The Chief Justice has sole authority to make committee appointments. The Director of the Administrative Office and the Assistant Director, Judicial Conference Executive Secretariat collate the expressed interests of judicial officers and their recommendations of others who may be considered for appointments, and the Director forwards the suggestions to the Chief Justice. Committee chairpersons may appoint subcommittees composed of members of the committee. Appointment of subcommittees composed of non-committee members requires the approval of the Chief Justice.
As a general rule, committee appointments are for a term of three years, subject to one reappointment. Terms are staggered to minimize turnover each year. Judges who desire committee service, or wish to recommend others for assignments, may make their interests or recommendations known at any time, in writing, to the Director of the Administrative Office. A permanent file is maintained for reference during the annual appointment process.