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In Profile: The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts – Annual Report 2020

Statutory Authority

28 U.S.C. §§ 601-612. Congress established the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AO) in 1939 to provide administrative support to federal courts.

The Director of the AO carries out statutory responsibilities and performs other duties under the supervision and direction of the principal policy-making body of the Judiciary, the Judicial Conference of the United States.


All responsibility for the AO is vested in the Director, who is the chief administrative officer for the federal courts. Under his or her direction, the agency carries out the following functions:

  • Implements the policies of the Judicial Conference of the United States and supports its network of 25 committees (including advisory committees) by providing staff to plan meetings, develop agendas, prepare reports, and provide substantive analytical support to the development of issues, projects, and recommendations;
  • Supports judicial officers, including active and senior appellate and district court judges, bankruptcy judges, and magistrate judges;
  • Advises court administrators regarding procedural and administrative matters;
  • Provides program leadership and support for circuit executives, clerks of court, staff attorneys, probation and pretrial services officers, federal defender organizations, panel attorneys, circuit librarians, conference attorneys/circuit mediators, bankruptcy administrators, and other court employees;
  • Provides centralized core administrative functions such as payroll, personnel, and accounting services;
  • Administers the Judiciary's personnel systems and coordinates its fair employment practices program;
  • Develops and executes the budget and provides guidance to courts for local budget execution;
  • Defines resource requirements through forecasts of caseloads, work measurement analyses, assessment of program changes, and reviews of individual court requirements;
  • Provides legislative counsel and services to the Judiciary; acts as liaison with the legislative and executive branches;
  • Prepares manuals and a variety of other print and online publications;
  • Collects and analyzes detailed statistics on the workload of the courts;
  • Monitors and reviews the performance of programs and use of resources;
  • Conducts education and training programs on administrative responsibilities;
  • Audits Judiciary financial operations and provides guidance on management oversight and stewardship issues;
  • Handles public affairs for the Judiciary, responding to inquiries from the media and the public;
  • Develops new ways for handling court business and provides assistance to court employees to help them implement programs and improve operations;
  • Develops and supports automated systems and technologies used throughout the courts;
  • Coordinates with the General Services Administration on the construction and management of the Judiciary's space and facilities; and
  • Monitors the U.S. Marshals Service’s implementation of the Judicial Facilities Security Program, including court security officers, and executes security policy for the Judiciary.

The AO in Brief

Office of the Director

James C. Duff, Director, July 2006–September 2011, January 2015–January 2021
On Jan. 5, 2021, Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., announced James C. Duff’s retirement as Director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, effective Jan. 31, 2021, and the appointment of Chief District Judge Roslynn R. Mauskopf as his successor, effective Feb. 1, 2021.

Office of the Deputy Director

Lee Ann Bennett, Deputy Director
Chief advisor to the Director on day-to-day management, strategic and tactical planning, and operational matters. Ensures that activities of all agency elements are functioning in support of stated management goals.

Department of Program Services

Mary Louise Mitterhoff, Associate Director
Responsible for providing a wide array of programs, services, and support to federal judges, clerks of court, probation and pretrial services officers, federal public defenders, Criminal Justice Act (CJA) panel attorneys, and their staffs. Develops and maintains computer applications, including case management systems, to satisfy program requirements. Ensures that data, analysis, and reporting functions meet the needs of the Judiciary.

Department of Administrative Services

James R. Baugher, Associate Director
Responsible for the Judiciary’s budget, accounting, and procurement functions; human resources functions; space and facilities programs, including courthouse design and technology coordination; and long-range facilities planning and court security. Develops and supports automated administrative systems and services for the AO and the Judiciary, including solutions and support for financial management, personnel and payroll processing, and data integration.

Department of Technology Services

Joseph R. Peters, Jr., Associate Director
Responsible for the Judiciary’s information technology systems support and deployment, infrastructure management, cloud technology and hosting, IT solutions, and security, as well as the AO technology office. Plans and coordinates national IT policy, standards, architecture, training, and security for the Judiciary.

General Counsel

Sheryl L. Walter, General Counsel
Provides legal counsel and services to the Director and staff of the AO and to the Judicial Conference, responds to legal inquiries from judges and other court officials regarding court operations, represents the AO in bid protests and other administrative litigation, and coordinates and supports federal rules of practice and procedure. The Office of the General Counsel also supports the Judicial Conference committees involved with issues related to judicial ethics, including the filing of financial disclosure reports from judges and Judiciary employees, responding to inquiries from judges and judicial employees about the application and interpretation of the codes of conduct, and supporting administration of the judicial misconduct and disability process.

Judicial Conference Secretariat

Katherine Hord Simon, Judicial Conference Secretariat Officer
Coordinates the agency’s performance of the staff functions required by the Judicial Conference and its committees, maintains the official records of the Judicial Conference, responds to judges and other court personnel regarding Conference activities, and coordinates the advisory group process.

Legislative Affairs

David T. Best, Legislative Affairs Officer
Provides legislative counsel and services to the Judiciary; maintains liaison with the legislative branch; manages the coordination of matters affecting the Judiciary with the states, legal entities, and other organizations; develops and produces judicial impact statements.

Public Affairs

David A. Sellers, Public Affairs Officer
Carries out public information, community outreach, and communications programs for the federal Judiciary, and manages media relations and web and video production services for the Administrative Office.

Judicial Integrity Office

Jill Langley, Judicial Integrity Officer
Serves as an independent source of information and referral for Judiciary employees who have questions related to workplace conduct and provides guidance on conflict resolution, mediation, and formal complaint options. The office also is responsible for tracking and monitoring data on any recurring workplace issues to identify trends, conducting systemic analyses and reviews, and providing training throughout the Judiciary. Langley is the Judiciary’s first judicial integrity officer.

Office of Compliance and Risk

Stephen J. Vetter, Compliance and Risk Officer
Coordinates quick and efficient responses to recommendations from audits, internal control reviews, and other reviews and studies to enhance accountability. The office is responsible for solutions to enterprise-level risks across the AO and for assisting members of the executive and management groups in monitoring and responding to any identified internal control weaknesses.

Defender Services Office

Cait T. Clarke, Chief
Ensures that the right to counsel guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment, the Criminal Justice Act (18 U.S.C. § 3006A), and other statutory authorities is enforced on behalf of those who cannot afford to retain counsel and other necessary defense services. The office provides leadership, direction, administration, management, oversight, and support for the system of federally appointed defense counsel.