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Public Outreach - Annual Report 2015

The ability of courts to fulfill their mission and perform their functions is based in part on the public’s trust and confidence in the system. Outreach efforts help to accurately communicate the role of the Judiciary and its work.

Survey Spotlights Civic Education and Outreach Activities

The results of the Federal Judicial Center’s (FJC) survey of federal judges’ civics education activities, released in January 2015, continue to drive two major initiatives—the development of national educational public outreach programs and the enhancement of the JNet National Outreach Catalog as a showcase for court-initiated programs that can be replicated in other jurisdictions. In response to the survey results, resources were added to the Educational Outreach section of JNet, including: a series of multi-media presentations for judges to use in civic education; additional interactive, in-court programs for use with tour groups and other court visitors; and a showcase that features programs created by judges.

Judiciary Celebrates Constitution Day 2015

More than 50 courts participated in coordinated naturalization ceremonies on Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, September 17, 2015. The focus was on student involvement in the events. The theme was Naturalization Ceremonies: A Living Civics Lesson. Among the ceremony venues were the USS Missouri in Hawaii; the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka; the Simon Estes Riverfront Amphitheater in Des Moines; Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest home in Virginia; the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia; and the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

Guidance Offered for Official Use of Social Media

Guidance was recently developed by several Judicial Conference committees for courts that are using or are considering the use of social media to communicate with the public. While the Judicial Conference has not encouraged or discouraged court use of social media for business purposes, the guidance provides suggested content, tips for communicating with the public, ethics guidelines, and access to special government terms of use.

Diverse Paths to the Federal Bench Highlighted

In the Pathways to the Bench video series, federal judges talk about the challenges in their lives that prepared them to serve on the bench. For example, in a 2015 video, Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Jacqueline Nguyen spoke of her early years in Vietnam and growing up in California. Her message: Have the courage and work ethic to accept opportunities that will shape your life.

Judge Reggie Walton, District Court for the District of Columbia, also appeared in a 2015 Pathways to the Bench video. A college injury ended a sports career, but was the beginning of a career in the law and, in time, an appointment to the federal bench and several high-profile public service assignments. His advice for facing adversity: Don’t let outside forces define you or determine your future.

Internal and External Web Communications Enhanced

Several enhancements to the Judiciary’s internal and external web communications were completed in 2015.

The re-designed website, launched in May 2015, offers users mobile-friendly access to improved content and navigation. The Court Locator, News, Forms, and Statistics areas of the site were improved based on user feedback and data. The technology used to develop the site allows for future upgrade and expansion as well as efficient cross-site resource sharing.

A new website template for probation and pretrial services offices was made available earlier this year to help offices build their public sites. The template is mobile-friendly for most devices and was developed in collaboration with the court probation and pretrial community. Court units have access to a secure hosting service for the templates. Upgraded, mobile-friendly versions of the court website templates and a more robust search function are on track for release in early 2016. Currently, 148 court units are using the website templates to deliver information to the public.

The JNet, the Judiciary’s internal website, was updated in 2015 to enhance searchability and content access. Users will be surveyed online for overall user satisfaction and feedback on site usability and additional input will be sought from various court groups.

Briefings on Judiciary Reach Worldwide

During fiscal year 2015, AO staff hosted 50 international briefings on key aspects of the federal judicial system, including the structure, operation and administration of the federal courts, the Judicial Conference, the courts’ interactions with the media, and federal judicial independence and transparency. 

These briefings addressed a total of 451 judges, court administrators, and judicial officials from 63 countries: Afghanistan, Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Benin, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, China, Colombia, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Croatia, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Gabon, Georgia, Honduras, Hungary, India, Iraq, Japan, Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Liberia, Lithuania, Malawi, Mauritania, Mexico, Moldova, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Nigeria, Niger, Palestinian Territories, Panama, Philippines, Qatar, Sao Tome & Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Yemen, and Zimbabwe.