We’ve read the detailed and informative paper; Building the Federal Judiciary (Literally and Legally): The Monuments of Chief Justices Taft, Warren, and Rehnquist (2012) and included it below (PDF) – as well as an extract regarding the occupancy audit of the federal courthouses.
The federal judiciary seeks $8.1 Billion dollars for the 2022 fiscal year, an increased request of funds at just under 5% over the prior year. It should be rejected. These monstrous federal courthouses are under-utilized, especially in the last year due to the national and international pandemic. LIT believes another audit of building use by congress is well overdue, considering the changes we’ve seen in remote working and moving to digital. Costs can be substantially reduced, not increased.
Why do we oppose this budget increase?
A substantial number of Judges have become tyrannical on the bench and rely upon a doctrine called judicial immunity to protect their criminal acts, which LIT has proven in this blog beyond question.
Until such times as substantial changes happen in this regard, e.g. the doctrine is materially amended to stop the over-protection of judges wrong-doing on and off the bench and judges are no longer allowed to judge their own peers in complaints of misconduct, (and where either 100% of complaints or practically 100% of cases are dismissed). We also believe that senior judges should be removed along with lifetime appointments.
The other glaring facts are (i) the Federal judiciary is not providing equal access to justice and (ii) the graphic below shows the low volume of cases in federal courts compared to state courts.
And breaking down the federal judiciary data further, of those cases in federal court, 95%+ never make it to a bench or jury trial and 98%+ of criminal trials are decided by pleas – so why the need for expensive courtrooms for cases that can now be held remotely as we see today? It’s mainly sentencing hearings for criminal cases.
Nationally and indeed, internationally, staff are being furloughed. Small businesses are trying to survive. Not so the federal judiciary, who is taking the stance it’s an essential government function and demands more money rather than trying to conserve. This is another example of how detached the judiciary is from the real world and real issues of the general population, not the one percenters they usually have in front of them in court proceedings arguing about the next IPO, patent or similar.
LIT opposes increasing budgets for the Judiciary, and so should concerned litigants and citizens.
federal courts, with their modest caseloads, dominate legal law and culture.
Congressional Investigations of Courtroom Usage
Conflicts over A-Courtroom-Per-Judge
Expensive courthouse building budgets coupled with vanishing trials attracted the attention of members of Congress.
Estimates were that new courtrooms cost about $1.5 million, and the question arose about how often judges used them. During the 1990s, “courtroom sharing” became a particular point of contestation, as members of Congress probed the judiciary’s insistence that a dedicated courtroom be provided for each judge as well as for judges who had taken senior status to open up vacancies.
Focused on what it called “courtroom utilization,” Congress commissioned studies from the General Accountability Office (GAO) and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which found underutilization of federal courtrooms.
A 1997 study defined courtroom usage as “any activity” (including but not limited to trials) for any portion of a day—a measure later noted to be generous in counting “lights-on” when courtrooms were in use for a small part of the day.
With that metric, the GAO reported a 54% usage rate of available days in the sixty-five courtrooms at the seven locations studied in 1995.
The judiciary responded by underscoring the need for courtrooms for arguments on motions, sentencing, and some pretrial conferences, as well as the complexity of scheduling. Judges regularly reported that courtroom availability was an important factor in bringing cases to conclusion. The point was even made in case law; in 1997, the Third Circuit reversed a conviction because a judge in the Virgin Islands had refused to grant a continuance based on the lack of courtroom space to accommodate a delay.
To document the need for individual courtrooms, the Judicial Conference employed the firm of Ernst & Young to conduct its own study.
That report concluded that courtroom sharing would not be feasible in small districts and would impose serious scheduling problems in larger ones.
That analysis prompted criticism from the GAO, which described the report as predicated on a flawed mathematical formula (lacking “data, rationale, or analytical basis”).
Yet another study, from the CBO, modeled the effects of a reduction in courtroom space based on trial rates as of 1995; the CBO concluded that some delays would occur but that, depending on the assumptions, even with fewer courtrooms, no one would be using them between about 20% to 40% of the time.
Congressional inquiries were complemented by concerns from the Executive. To the chagrin of the judiciary, on more than one occasion the Executive Branch did not forward judicial requests to Congress for buildings.
By 1997, while maintaining its commitment to dedicated courtrooms, the Judicial Conference announced a “space cost containment plan” through which it would explore whether courtroom sharing was feasible.
At issue was whether circuits or districts might ask senior or visiting judges to share courtrooms.
In the fiscal year 2001 budget request, the Executive Branch requested funding for seven courthouse construction projects—on a budget assuming two courtrooms for every three judges.
The Judicial Conference objected that the proposal was a “direct contradiction” of the judiciary’s policy, “developed after analysis of two major studies on courtroom utilization and case management” that had recognized “the indispensable need for a courtroom to fulfill the essential judicial responsibilities.”
The Conference “strongly condemned the unilateral efforts” of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to “impose a courtroom sharing policy on the judicial branch, as an unwarranted and inappropriate intrusion into the constitutionally mandated independence of the judiciary.”
The Judicial Conference identified certain courts (such as those with heavy immigration dockets derivative of efforts to close the Southwest border) as having such emergencies and requiring funds in light of “intolerable security and operational problems.”
The other two branches pushed back. The Judicial Conference then imposed its own internal two-year moratorium on planning for upgraded projects in order to reevaluate the “underlying assumptions” in light of “constrained budgetary environments.”
In 2004, the Conference called on chief circuit judges to cancel space requests wherever possible.(In 2006, some exemptions from that moratorium were authorized.) In an effort to take the theory of internalizing the costs of buildings from the national to the circuit level, the Conference also imposed a “rent budget cap” per circuit.
In 2005, at the request of the chair of the House subcommittee focused on federal building, the FJC undertook yet another study of courtroom utilization.
To answer the “ultimate question” of whether judges could “share courtrooms without compromising the administration of justice,” the FJC looked at 422 courtrooms in twenty-three districts. When evaluating those facilities, the FJC added to the metric of “actual courtroom use” the concept of “latent use,” a term coined to denote time scheduled in a courtroom but subsequently cancelled.
Availability rather than actual use was relevant because “a firm trial date and availability of a courtroom ‘often’ prompt parties to settle or plead.” Further, the FJC distinguished among judicial users, separately assessing how much time active, senior, and magistrate judges spent in courtrooms.
The FJC reported widespread enthusiasm for dedicated courtrooms from the judges surveyed as well as from lawyers. Moreover, the 2008 study found a higher rate of use (69% of work days for district judges) than had earlier studies.
On any given day, “50% to 74% of the courtrooms were in use . . . for either actual or scheduled events.”
On the other hand, in the courts where judges shared courtrooms, there “were no days on which a courtroom was not available.”
While the study was underway, the relevant House subcommittee passed a resolution that directed a revision of the U.S. Courts Design Guide to provide, in new court construction, “for one courtroom for every two senior judges.”
In the summer of 2008, the federal judiciary’s newsletter highlighted efforts undertaken to economize. Crediting Chief Justice Rehnquist with identifying the need for cost containment, the story began:
“Over five years ago, the federal Judiciary looked into the future and saw its rent projected to top $1.2 billion by 2009. . . . Massive layoffs of staff seemed inevitable.”
Instead, as the 2008 newsletter continued, changes in “planning assumptions” had helped to protect the judiciary.
The Conference committed itself to some courtroom sharing for senior judges and magistrate judges, exploration of “opportunities” for courtroom sharing for active district judges on large (ten or more) multijudge courts, and studying “courtroom allocation policies” for bankruptcy judges.
As then-AO Director James Duff (who had replaced Ralph Meacham) explained, those provisions struck “the appropriate balance between the Judiciary’s fundamental responsibility of ensuring the fair and efficient administration of justice and the general governmental responsibility to be good stewards of the taxpayers’ money.”
But as the judiciary retreated somewhat from its “one-courtroom-per-judge” stance, what it got in return was a new way in which to calculate the money it paid to the GSA in rent.
The revised fee assessments were estimated to save the courts some $140 million over the coming two decades.
Judiciary Seeks 2022 Funding, Cites Caseload Resurgence and Security Needs
FEB 24, 2021| REPUBLISHED BY LIT: FEB 25, 2021
Federal Judiciary officials have asked Congress for $8.12 billion to fund judicial branch operations for fiscal year 2022. The request includes funding to keep pace with inflationary and other budget adjustments, and to pay for program increases, including projected workload changes, courthouse security, cybersecurity, and new magistrate judges.
The request in discretionary appropriations represents an overall $403 million increase, or 5.2 percent, above the FY 2021 enacted level.
“I ask that you consider the constitutional and statutory responsibilities with which the judiciary is charged,” Judge John W. Lungstrum, chair of the Judicial Conference Committee on the Budget, said in testimony. “In return, I commit to you that we will continue to be effective and cost-conscious stewards of the funds Congress entrusts to us.”
Lungstrum was joined by Judge Roslynn R. Mauskopf, director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, in testifying on Feb. 24 before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government.
In her testimony, Mauskopf outlined branch-wide priorities that the Administrative Office is supporting, including employee diversity and inclusion, workplace conduct protections, and growing judicial security needs for federal judges and U.S. court facilities.
Mauskopf asked for $100.3 million for the AO, a 4.9 percent increase.
“I echo Judge Lungstrum’s gratitude to the subcommittee for its generous and consistent support of the Judiciary,” Mauskopf testified. “By providing the resources needed by the AO and the rest of the branch, you are ensuring that the judiciary can continue to perform its vital role as intended and required.”
Lungstrum noted that the coronavirus (COVID-19) has disrupted federal court operations, including widespread telework for employees, postponed jury trials, increased use of video and teleconferencing, and new approaches for probation and pretrial supervision.
“The judicial branch’s more than 33,000 dedicated professionals – like public and private sector workers everywhere – continue to perform their duties admirably during this period of great uncertainty,” Lungstrum said. “But we anticipate a backlog of cases will flood the federal court system once vaccination becomes widespread and society begins a return to normalcy.”
Lungstrum said the courts will need supplemental appropriations for the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, 2021, to pay for information technology expenses and for enhanced cleaning of court space to reduce infection risk for litigants and court personnel.
Other testimony highlights:
Increased staffing for federal defenders.
The Judiciary is requesting $12 million to hire 118 full-time employees, to address staffing shortages identified by work measurement tools.
An additional $9 million is for staff to address unexpected surges in workload, and $1.5 million would fund a diversity fellowship program in federal defender offices.
Expected resurgence in caseloads.
The pandemic resulted in double-digit declines in 2020 in criminal filings (-11 percent) and bankruptcy filings (-12 percent).
“The Judiciary projects that criminal and bankruptcy workload will rebound in 2021, with each increasing nearly 4 percent,” Lungstrum said.
Court-appointed defense representations in the Judiciary’s defender services program are also expected to increase.
The request includes $682 million to fund nearly 4,600 court security officers protecting courthouses; payments to the Federal Protective Service for the patrol and protection of courthouse perimeters; and security systems and equipment, including funding for ongoing security improvements.
The Judiciary is streamlining the administration of tens of millions of bankruptcy notices – nearly 67 million in 2020. Electronic noticing to creditors and debtors resulted in $9 million in cost avoidance in FY 2020 alone.
The Judiciary is seeking funding for six additional full-time magistrate judges and one part-time magistrate judge, for courts in Camden, New Jersey; Corpus Christi, Texas; Indianapolis, Indiana; Pierre, South Dakota; Waco, Texas; St. George, Utah; and the District of Columbia (part-time).
The Judiciary has requested funding to renew firewall licenses and to enhance cybersecurity in federal defender IT systems.
Mandatory pay for judges.
In addition to the discretionary budget, the Judiciary requested a total of $757 million in mandatory funds for judges’ salaries and retirement funds.
Mauskopf said the AO has made great progress since 2018 in protecting Judiciary employees from inappropriate workplace conduct.
“We have made substantial improvements that have real impacts on our employees and continue to do so with a number of new achievements in the last year,” she said.
Mauskopf reported that every circuit and nearly 80 percent of the districts have now adopted a model Employment Dispute Resolution plan that clearly defines misconduct.
The Judiciary also offers flexible avenues for reporting complaints, and the Judicial Conference approved amendments to the Code of Conduct for employees of federal public defender organizations that mirror misconduct-related changes made to the Codes of Conduct for judges and court employees in 2019.
She also said the AO has strengthened efforts to expand workplace diversity, hiring a diversity and inclusion officer.
The Facilities and Security Office also has established five summer internships that focus recruitment on historically black colleges.
“I am committed to recruiting, hiring, and retaining a highly qualified and diverse workforce,” Mauskopf said, “and ensuring that our workplace is welcoming and respectful to all.”
Mauskopf said greater protections are needed for judges, citing the murder last July of the son of U.S. District Judge Esther Salas at their home in New Jersey.
What’s Trending on LIT this Monday morn? US Courts in Philly have an interest in Judge Rosenbaum of the 11th Circuit’s page https://t.co/YbYkQRH5ew @USAO_Kansas @uscourts @dcexaminer @WashTimes @washingtonpost @MiamiHerald @MotherJones @SunSentinel @thesundaytimes @IrishTimes pic.twitter.com/xCm7AkCgSM
— LawsInTexas (@lawsintexasusa) February 1, 2021
The Judiciary supports legislation that would prohibit the resale or online posting of personally identifiable information that might reveal where federal judges live, and the creation of a resource to monitor the online availability of personal information and associated threats.
Mauskopf noted that Congress approved funding late last year for the U.S. Marshals Service to modernize home-security systems for federal judges.
Draft legislation to prevent the spread of online information that endangers judges has bipartisan support, she added. “We are encouraged by this progress and hope to build on it as we work to achieve the enactment of our remaining priorities,” Mauskopf said.
In addition to the murder of Judge Salas’s son, the Judiciary also has identified a need for additional security resources following the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
These measures include targeted infrastructure fixes, such as “riot glass” and magnetic door locks, that can better protect federal courthouses against large groups seeking unlawful entry.
Mauskopf noted that these requirements were developed too recently to be included in the Judiciary’s FY 2022 budget request, but she offered to work with Congress to address additional security needs.
“These disquieting and, in some cases, tragic events … have sharpened the Judicial Conference’s focus on the need to make significant and urgent improvements to the full range of judicial security activities,” Mauskopf said.
Lungstrum and Mauskopf both stressed the importance of the General Services Administration receiving funding to address Judiciary space needs.
FY 2022 courthouse construction priorities include a new courthouse in Puerto Rico, which would address a Judicial Conference declared space emergency due to seismic vulnerabilities.
The Judiciary also is requesting the remaining funding for courthouse projects in Hartford, Connecticut, and Chattanooga, Tennessee. GSA receives funding in the same appropriations subcommittee as the Judiciary.