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Successes Reported in Aggressive Space and Rent Reduction Initiative

Contact: David Sellers, 202-502-2600

Federal courts have reduced the space they occupy and cut rent costs at facilities throughout the country, according to a report provided today to the Judicial Conference of the United States.

"The judicial branch has achieved nearly 30 percent of its target of reducing building space by 3 percent over the next three years," said Judge D. Brooks Smith, Chair of the Conference's Space and Facilities Committee. "The resulting rental savings will continue to pay off with each passing year."

Federal courts are reducing space by closing or downsizing facilities; closing, reducing, or finding different uses for circuit libraries; releasing under-utilized space to the General Services Administration (GSA); and using technology and mobility to share space when possible.

"As the Judicial Conference reaffirmed in September 2013, space reduction is the Judiciary's primary cost-containment initiative. The courts are making good on that commitment to being responsible, proactive stewards of public funds," Judge Smith said at the Judicial Conference's biannual meeting today in Washington, D.C.

Since the 2013 initiative started, more than 242,000 square feet of space has been removed from the Judiciary's rent bill, representing a savings of $6 million that the Judiciary will no longer have to pay each year.

Every judicial circuit has developed a space and rent reduction plan, which will be updated periodically. The plans contain each circuit's strategy for reducing the space it occupies by three percent by the end of Fiscal Year 2018.

While dozens of space-related cost cutting measures are in progress in courts throughout the country, examples include:

  • The bankruptcy court in Miami, which last year moved from a separate courthouse to available space in a nearby U.S. district court, saving $900,000 a year in rent and security costs. The vacated bankruptcy court space has been returned to GSA.
  • A GSA-court partnership in Chicago that later this year will move probation and pretrial services offices from private leased space to a federal building, cutting the probation and pretrial space by 55 percent and saving $1.4 million. This is intended to be a model program for other courts because the increasingly mobile probation and pretrial workforce typically requires less office space.

"Thanks to the hard work of courts across the country, the Judiciary has moved forcefully to cut space and rent costs," Judge Smith told the Judicial Conference.

In other action, today the Conference adopted the results of the biennial judgeship survey conducted by its Judicial Resources Committee, which identified the need for five new appellate and 68 district judgeships. The Judicial Conference has provided the Director of the Administrative Office with the authority to seek separate legislation for Conference-approved judgeships in selected districts, providing the Judiciary with more flexibility in pursuing new judgeships in courts with the greatest needs.

Since the last comprehensive judgeship bill was enacted nearly 25 years ago, the number of cases filed in the U.S. courts of appeals increased by 28 percent and the number of cases filed in the district courts increased by 41 percent – civil filings grew by 40 percent and criminal filings by 43 percent.

The 26-member Judicial Conference is the policy-making body for the federal court system. By statute the Chief Justice serves as its presiding officer and its members are the chief judges of the 13 courts of appeals, a district judge from each of the 12 geographic circuits, and the chief judge of the Court of International Trade. The Conference meets twice a year to consider administrative and policy issues affecting the court system, and to make recommendations to Congress concerning legislation involving the Judicial Branch.

Related Topics: Cost Containment, Courthouses, Funding, Judges & Judgeships, Judicial Conference of the United States