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Issue 4: The Judiciary Workforce and Workplace

How can the judiciary attract, develop, and retain a highly diverse and competent complement of judges, employees, and Criminal Justice Act (CJA) attorneys, and ensure an exemplary workplace in which everyone is treated with dignity and respect?

Issue Description 

The judiciary can retain public trust and confidence and meet workload demands only if it is comprised of a diverse complement of highly competent judges, employees, and CJA attorneys. It cannot attract and retain the most capable people from all parts of society, nor can it keep the public’s trust and confidence, unless it maintains a diverse and exemplary workplace in which all are treated with dignity and respect and are valued for their contributions regardless of race, color, sex, gender, gender identity, pregnancy, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, age, or disability. Attracting and retaining highly capable and diverse judges, employees, and CJA attorneys, will require fair and competitive compensation and benefit packages. The judiciary must abide by and enhance, where appropriate, its standards and procedures to assure proper workplace conduct, and must also plan for new methods of performing work, and prepare for continued volatility in workloads, as it develops its future workforce. Three strategies to address this issue follow:

Strategy 4.1

Recruit, develop, and retain a talented, dedicated, and diverse workforce, while defining the judiciary’s future workforce requirements.

Background and Commentary. Public trust and confidence are enhanced when the judiciary’s workforce – judges, employees, and CJA attorneys – broadly reflects the diversity of the public it serves. While it has no control over the appointment of Article III judges, the judiciary can and should strive for diversity in all other positions, particularly bankruptcy judges, magistrate judges, federal defenders, and CJA panel attorneys, all of whom occupy positions highly visible to the public. The judiciary must continue to pursue initiatives to attract future judges, such as the “Roadways to the Bench” programs, that are designed to secure a wide and diverse pool of applicants for every position, and ensure diversity among members of screening and selection committees. Judges must be encouraged to give special attention to diversity in their law clerk hiring practices.

The judiciary must also continue to pursue initiatives to retain its position as an employer of choice. The judicial branch provides employees with many resources and services, including training and education programs. To remain competitive, especially with hard-to-fill occupations, the judiciary must have a strong program to attract, recruit, develop, and retain a diverse and highly qualified workforce.

Ongoing changes that the judiciary must address include an increase in the amount of work performed away from the office, shifting career and work-life expectations, and the unique challenges faced by probation and pretrial services offices in recruiting, retaining, training, and ensuring the physical and mental well-being of officers. Changes in how employees communicate and interact, and in how and where work is performed, are related to Strategy 3.1, as certain types of changes provide opportunities for the judiciary to reduce its space footprint and rental costs while creating a better and more efficient work environment. The judiciary must continue to invest in technology and explore changes to policy and procedures that allow for an effective remote and mobile workforce.

In addition, the judiciary must develop the next generation of executives. The management model in federal courts provides individual court executives with a high degree of decentralized authority over a wide range of administrative matters. The judiciary must maintain a meaningful leadership and executive development training program and create executive relocation programs to ensure a wide pool of qualified internal applicants, while also conducting outreach efforts to attain a diverse and talented field of candidates.

Goal 4.1a:   Establish, maintain and expand outreach efforts and procedures to make diverse audiences aware of employment opportunities in the judiciary, including as judicial officers.

Goal 4.1b:   Strengthen the judiciary’s commitment to workforce diversity, equity, and inclusion by expanding diversity program recruitment, education, and training; identifying barriers to recruitment of a diverse workforce; ensuring all recruitments are designed to attract and consider a diverse pool of applicants; and ensuring screening and hiring committees consist of diverse members.

Goal 4.1c:   Identify current and future workforce challenges and develop and evaluate strategies to enhance the judiciary’s standing as an employer of choice while enabling employees to reach their full potential.

Goal 4.1d:   Deliver leadership, management, and human resources programs and services to help judges (especially chief judges), executives and supervisors develop, assess and lead employees.

Goal 4.1e:   Provide mentoring and career advancement opportunities to all employees.

Goal 4.1f:   Provide resources and develop Health and Wellness Committees to examine policy, practices, and programs that provide a supportive and healthy work environment for the maintenance or restoration of judiciary employees to promote health and competence throughout their career and beyond.

Strategy 4.2

Support a lifetime of service for federal judges.

Background and Commentary. It is critical that judges are supported throughout their careers, as new judges, active judges, chief judges, senior judges, judges recalled to service, and retired judges. In addition, education, training, and orientation programs offered by the Federal Judicial Center and the Administrative Office will need to continue to evolve and adapt. Training and education programs, and other services that enhance the well-being of judges, need to be accessible in a variety of formats, and on an as-needed basis.

Goal 4.2a:   Strengthen policies that encourage senior Article III judges to continue handling cases as long as they are willing and able to do so. Judges who were appointed to fixed terms and are recalled to serve after retirement must be provided the support necessary for them to fully discharge their duties.

Goal 4.2b:   Seek the views of judges on practices that support their development, retention, and morale, and evolve and adapt education, training, and orientation programs to meet the needs of judges.

Goal 4.2c:   Encourage circuits to develop circuit-wide Health and Wellness Committees to promote health and wellness programs, policies, and practices that provide a supportive environment for the maintenance or restoration of health and wellness in support of a lifetime of service for judges.

Strategy 4.3

Ensure an exemplary workplace free from discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and abusive conduct.

Background and Commentary. Public trust and confidence and workforce morale and productivity are enhanced when the judiciary provides an exemplary workplace for everyone. As a result of efforts by the judiciary’s Workplace Conduct Working Group – which recommended more than thirty measures to enhance the judiciary's workplace policies and procedures – the judiciary has adopted amendments to the applicable codes of conduct and the Rules for Judicial Conduct and Judicial Disability Proceedings to expressly state that sexual and other harassment, discrimination, abusive conduct, and retaliation are misconduct. In addition, the judiciary has adopted an improved Model Employment Dispute Resolution Plan to clearly describe prohibited conduct and provide simplified and effective redress, has established a Judicial Integrity Office and regional workplace conduct committees and workplace relations directors, and has undertaken extensive training on workplace civility and preventing harassment and other forms of discrimination. Beyond these and other measures already taken, the judiciary can continuously improve. The judiciary must diligently continue to work to ensure that it provides an exemplary workplace for all of its employees.

Goal 4.3a:   Educate all judges and employees on standards of appropriate and inappropriate conduct, with continuing education on a regular basis, including as related to the codes of conduct and judicial conduct and disability procedures. 

Goal 4.3b:   Educate all judges and employees about the obligation to take appropriate action when they have reliable information about misconduct by a judge or other person, and about the available options for guidance regarding reporting misconduct, as well as mechanisms to report misconduct.

Goal 4.3c:   Enhance accountability and effective redress, where appropriate, through universal adoption and conscientious application of the Model Employment Dispute Resolution Plan, and be transparent regarding judicial conduct and disability proceedings and other workplace conduct procedures in furtherance of and consistent with the law, related judiciary policy, and legitimate privacy interests.

Goal 4.3d:   Provide a circuit director of workplace relations in each circuit, to whom employees within the circuit can report wrongful conduct concerns, and who will provide circuit-wide assistance to managers and employees on workplace conduct issues, including training, conflict resolution, and workplace investigations. Ensure that all court Employment Dispute Resolution (EDR) Coordinators are trained and certified under the CourtsLearn EDR Coordinator Certification course.

Goal 4.3e:   Consider conducting reviews of systemic issues related to workplace conduct at the circuit and district level, when appropriate, and systematically evaluate whether guidance and procedures designed to foster an exemplary workplace are effective and whether additional action may be needed.