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Issue 7: The Judiciary’s Relationships with the Other Branches of Government

How can the judiciary develop and sustain effective relationships with Congress and the executive branch, yet preserve appropriate autonomy in judiciary governance, management and decision-making?

Issue Description 

The judiciary is an independent branch of government with the solemn responsibility of safeguarding the constitutional rights and liberties of the nation’s citizens, not simply a line item in the non-defense discretionary portion of the federal budget.

An effective relationship with Congress is critical to success in securing adequate resources. The judiciary must provide Congress timely and accurate information about issues affecting the administration of justice, and demonstrate that the judiciary has a comprehensive system of oversight and review that ensures the integrity of financial information, provides comprehensive financial reporting, and builds upon its foundation of internal controls and methods to prevent and detect fraud, waste, and abuse.

The judiciary’s relationships with the executive branch are also critical, particularly in areas where the executive branch has primary administrative or program responsibility, such as reporting on annual government-wide financial activity, judicial security and facilities management. Ongoing communication about Judicial Conference goals, policies, and positions may help to develop the judiciary’s overall relationship with Congress and the executive branch. By seeking opportunities to enhance communication among the three branches, the judiciary can strengthen its role as an equal branch of government while improving the administration of justice. At the same time, the judiciary must endeavor to preserve an appropriate degree of self-sufficiency and discretion in conducting its own affairs. This plan includes two strategies to build relationships with Congress and the executive branch:

Strategy 7.1

Develop and implement a comprehensive approach to enhancing relations between the judiciary and Congress.

Background and Commentary. This strategy emphasizes the importance of building and maintaining relationships between judges and members of Congress, at the local level and in Washington. The intent is to enhance activities that are already underway, and to stress their importance in shaping a favorable future for the judiciary. Progress in implementing other strategies in this plan can also help the judiciary to enhance its relationship with Congress. Goals relating to timeliness and accessibility directly affect members’ constituents, and the ability to report measurable progress in meeting goals may also strengthen the judiciary’s relationship with Congress. Congressional awareness of the judiciary’s ongoing efforts to strengthen its financial oversight and reporting — building upon its existing foundation of internal controls and methods to prevent and detect fraud, waste and abuse — is critical to assure oversight bodies, as well as the public, that the judiciary has a robust program of oversight and effective controls in place.

Goal 7.1a:   Improve the early identification of legislative issues in order to improve the judiciary’s ability to respond and communicate with Congress on issues affecting the administration of justice.

Goal 7.1b:   Implement effective approaches, including partnerships with legal, academic, and private sector organizations, to achieve the judiciary’s legislative goals.

Goal 7.1c:   Encourage judges to engage with members of their local congressional delegation to foster mutual understanding and respect, and to establish lines of communication between the two branches.

Strategy 7.2

Strengthen the judiciary’s relations with the executive branch.

Background and Commentary. The executive branch delivers critical services to the judiciary, including space, security, personnel and retirement services, and more. In addition, the executive branch develops and implements policies and procedures that affect the administration of justice. The executive branch is also a source of financial reporting requirements for government-wide financial activity. The judiciary’s ongoing efforts to transform financial reporting, enhance the judiciary’s internal controls programs, and strengthen the integrity of judiciary financial data, provide tangible assurance to judiciary officials, oversight bodies, taxpayers, and others for whom the judiciary holds money in trust. This strategy focuses on enhancing the ability of the judiciary to provide input and information to its executive branch partners.

Goal 7.2a:   Improve communications and working relationships with the executive branch to facilitate greater consideration of policy changes and other solutions that will improve the administration of justice.