Judiciary Embraces Efficiency, House Is Told
The federal Judiciary uses a wide array of initiatives—including advanced technology, cost reduction and aggressive auditing—to deliver justice efficiently, while enhancing public access to and knowledge of the courts, according to testimony delivered July 6 to a House Judiciary subcommittee.
“As the Third Branch performs its constitutional duties,” said James C. Duff, Director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, “we are focused on being good stewards of the resources Congress has provided, while also meeting the needs of the litigants and the public.”
Duff testified before the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet, about “the Judicial Branch and the Efficient Administration of Justice.” Written testimony also was submitted by U.S. District Chief Judge Rodney W. Sippel, of the Eastern District of Missouri.
In his testimony, Duff noted that federal court caseloads have increased nearly four-fold in the last 50 years, while judgeships only doubled. “The fact that our judges and courts are meeting many of the challenges of increasing caseloads is a testament to the efficiencies in our court system,” Duff said.
Duff cited several initiatives to deliver justice efficiently and cost effectively, while also enhancing public access.
- Effective case management, including the use of visiting judges, helps courts with heavy caseloads, while magistrate judges and senior judges help manage caseloads in all courts.
- Shared Administrative Services and work measurement analyses have reduced total court staffing requirements by nearly 3,900 full-time equivalent positions since 2011.
- Refined budget formulations, and an aggressive auditing program and other fiscal controls, have led to savings.
- Court space reduction by 3 percent by the end of fiscal year 2018.
- Information technology improvements, including centralized hosting services and a national videoconferencing service, have reduced individual court costs.
- Electronic case filing and Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) have made court documents readily available to the public, while the Government Printing Office provides free access to court opinions.
- EJuror provides electronic registration for jurors, while Debtor Electronic Bankruptcy Noticing, has reduced notification costs.
Following Duff's testimony, panel members, including subcommittee chair Darrell Issa (R-CA), asked a series of questions, focusing on issues related to transparency and the federal Judiciary.
Sippel, who is chair of the Judicial Conference’s Committee on the Judicial Branch, focused his written testimony on relations between the three branches of government and efforts to improve the public’s knowledge of the Judiciary.
“The Judiciary has a longstanding interest in developing and maintaining relations with the executive and legislative branches of government,” Sippel wrote. “The Constitution established three coequal branches of government as integral to keeping our democracy healthy and vital to preserving the rule of law.”
Sippel noted that the Judiciary participates in several programs and initiatives to strengthen its relationship with Congress and the Executive Branch.
Sippel also cited a national effort by federal judges to directly educate the public. These efforts include public tours of courts; courthouse-based learning centers; having judges lead educational programs in community settings; and holding naturalization ceremonies across the country on Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, in September.
“The Judiciary feels so strongly that greater civic education will help improve the public’s understanding of and trust in the courts that enhancing civic education is one of its primary strategic goals,” Sippel wrote.
In his testimony, Duff said that the Judiciary needs help from Congress in order to continue to provide efficient administration to justice.
The Judicial Conference is seeking 19 new judgeships in 11 districts that have particularly high caseloads. Duff also asked that Congress account for resource impacts on the courts that could be caused by legislative proposals. He cited bills on sentencing reform and immigration reform as examples.
“We ask that as Congress considers new legislation that it also considers the impact of new laws on the federal courts and the federal indigent defense system,” Duff said, “and ensures the Judiciary has the resources needed to address increased workload.”
Related Topics: Congressional Hearing, Legislation