Federal Judicial Center
|This article relies on references to primary sources. (April 2010)|
The Federal Judicial Center is the education and research agency of the United States federal courts. It was established by an Act of Congress (28 U.S.C. §§ 620–629) in 1967, at the recommendation of the Judicial Conference of the United States.
The main areas of responsibility for the Center include:
- conducting and promoting orientation and continuing education and training for federal judges, court employees, and others;
- developing recommendations about the operation and study of the federal courts; and
- conducting and promoting research on federal judicial procedures, court operations, and history.
By statute, the Chief Justice of the United States is ex officio chair of the Center's board, which also includes the director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts and seven judges elected by the Judicial Conference. The Board appoints the Center's director and deputy director; the director appoints the Center's staff. Since its founding in 1967, the Center has had ten directors. Judge Jeremy Fogel became director in 2011. He was appointed U.S. district judge for the Northern District of California in 1998 but has been resident in Washington, D.C., since becoming director. The deputy director is John S. Cooke.
The establishment of a separate agency that would conduct research and educational programs for the federal courts marked a further development in the judiciary’s institutional independence. The Federal Judicial Center was established by Congress on the recommendation of Chief Justice Earl Warren and other members of the judiciary who hoped that regular programs of research and education would improve the efficiency of the federal courts and relieve the backlog of cases in the lower courts. Governed by its own board, the Federal Judicial Center offered the courts the benefits of independent social science research and educational programs designed to improve judicial administration.
In the 1950s and early 1960s, the Judicial Conference and the Administrative Office increasingly commissioned research projects to examine problems of judicial administration at the same time that they organized educational programs to help judges manage growing and complicated caseloads. These research and educational programs, however, received no permanent staff or funding. Support for an institutionalized program of judicial research and education increased after the establishment of 60 new district judgeships in 1961 demonstrated that the number of judges alone would not solve all of the problems of overworked courts. A growing number of judges and members of the bar urged the judiciary to establish the formal means to bring improved research and education to the courts.
At the suggestion of Chief Justice Warren, the Judicial Conference in 1966 authorized a committee to examine the research and education requirements of the judiciary. Former Justice Stanley Reed agreed to Warren’s request to chair the committee. Before the Judicial Conference adopted the Reed committee’s recommendation for establishment of a Federal Judicial Center, President Johnson, at Warren’s request, decided to include the proposal in his highly publicized message on crime in February 1967. Bills to create the Center were soon submitted in both houses of Congress. With broad support for the concept of a research and education center for the judiciary, discussion in the House and Senate hearings centered on questions about the proper institutional form and leadership for the Center.
The Reed Committee and the director of the Administrative Office, among others, advocated an independent agency with its own governing board to which the Center director would report. The goal was to protect the research and education resources from being absorbed into strictly administrative duties and to insure the objectivity of research. The Federal Judicial Center’s board consists of the Chief Justice, a rotating group of judges selected by the Judicial Conference, and the director of the Administrative Office; no member of the Judicial Conference was to serve on the Center’s board. The statute authorizes the Center to conduct and support research on the operation of the courts, to offer education and training for judges and court personnel, and to assist and advise the Judicial Conference on matters related to the administration and management of the courts. More recent legislation has expanded the Center’s mandate to include, among other things, programs related to the history of the federal judiciary.
The Center includes several offices and divisions.
The Director's Office is responsible for the Center's overall management and its relations with other organizations. Its Office of Systems Innovation and Development (OSID) provides technical support for Center education and research. Communications Policy and Design (CPD) edits, produces, and distributes all Center print and electronic publications, operates the Federal Judicial Television Network, and through the Information Services Office maintains a specialized library collection of materials on judicial administration.
The Research Division undertakes empirical and exploratory research on federal judicial processes, judicial resources, court administration and case management, and sentencing and its consequences, often at the request of the Judicial Conference and its committees, the courts themselves, or other groups in the federal system. James B. Eaglin is the current director of the research division.
Federal Judicial History Office
The Federal Judicial History Office develops programs relating to the history of the judicial branch and assists courts with their own judicial history programs.
The Education Division plans and organizes educational sessions for federal judges and court staff. Bruce Clarke is the current director of the Education Division.
International Judicial Relations Office
The International Judicial Relations Office caries out the Center's statutory mission to provide information about federal courts to officials of foreign judicial systems and to acquire information about foreign judicial systems that will help the Center perform its other missions. Among other activities, the office administrates the Center's International Visitor briefing program and the Visiting Foreign Judicial Fellows Program.
Board of the Center
The Center's board consists of:
- John G. Roberts, Jr., Chief Justice of the United States, chair.
- Judge Catherine C. Blake, U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland
- Magistrate Judge Jonathan W. Feldman, U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York
- Judge James F. Holderman, Jr., U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
- Senior Judge Michael Melloy, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
- Chief Judge C. Ray Mullins, U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Georgia
- Judge Edward C. Prado, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
- Judge Kathryn H. Vratil, U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas, and
- Senior Judge Thomas F. Hogan, Director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts
A nonprofit organization, the Federal Judicial Center Foundation, solicits support for the Center.