Main content

Issue 3: The Effective and Efficient Management of Public Resources

How can the judiciary provide justice consistent with its core values while managing limited resources and programs in a manner that reflects workload variances and funding realities?

Issue Description

The judiciary’s pursuit of cost-containment initiatives has helped to reduce current and future costs for rent, information technology, the compensation of court employees and law clerks, and other areas. These initiatives have also improved resource allocation within the bankruptcy judges system, as well as the prudent allocation and management of resources within the magistrate judges system, and have helped the judiciary operate under difficult financial constraints. Cost-containment efforts have also helped the judiciary demonstrate to Congress that it is an effective steward of public resources, and that its requests for additional resources are well justified (Strategy 1.2).

The judiciary relies upon effective decision-making processes governing the allocation and use of judges, employees, facilities, and funds to ensure the best use of limited resources. These processes must respond to a federal court workload that varies across districts and over time. Developing, evaluating, publicizing, and implementing best practices will assist courts and other judiciary organizations in addressing workload changes. Local courts have many operational and program management responsibilities in the judiciary’s decentralized governance structure, and the continued development of effective local practices must be encouraged. At the same time, the judiciary may also need to consider whether and to what extent certain practices should be adopted judiciary wide. This plan includes a single strategy to address this issue.

Strategy 3.1

Allocate and manage resources more efficiently and effectively.

Background and Commentary. The judiciary has worked to contain the growth in judiciary costs, and has pursued a number of studies, initiatives, and reviews of judiciary policy. Significant savings have been achieved, particularly for rent, compensation, and information technology. Cost containment remains a high priority, and new initiatives to contain cost growth and make better use of resources are being implemented or are under consideration.

For example, over the past several years, court units throughout the judiciary have developed and implemented alternative approaches for carrying out their operational and administrative functions. These approaches have helped courts maintain the level and quality of services they deliver, and in many instances, have increased efficiencies and controlled costs associated with providing those services.

This strategy also includes two goals to increase the flexibility of the judiciary in matching resources to workload. The intent is to enable available judges and court employees to assist heavily burdened courts on a temporary basis, and to reduce the barriers to such assistance. Supporting these goals is a third goal to ensure that the judiciary utilizes its networks, systems, and space in a manner that supports efficient operations. A fourth goal speaks to the critical need to maintain effective court operations and anticipate alternative delivery of services when disaster strikes.

Goal 3.1a:   Make more effective use of judges to relieve overburdened and congested courts, including expanding ways to provide both short- and long-term assistance to districts and circuits with demonstrated needs for additional resources, and ensuring the effective utilization of magistrate judge resources.

Goal 3.1b:   Analyze and facilitate the implementation of organizational changes and business practices that make effective use of limited administrative and operational employees but do not jeopardize public safety or negatively impact outcomes or mission.

Goal 3.1c:   Manage the judiciary’s infrastructure in a manner that supports effective and efficient operations, and provides for a safe and secure environment.

Goal 3.1d:   Plan for and respond to natural disasters, terrorist attacks, pandemics and other physical threats in an effective manner.