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Fix the Court Calls on Judicial Conference to Be More Transparent About Its Operations

CJR3The Judicial Conference of the United States, led by Chief Justice John Roberts (right) and comprising some of the nation’s top federal judges, is meeting in D.C. for its semiannual summit, yet scant information about the roles and responsibilities of this body, the composition of its committees or the work it was planning to accomplish has been released publicly.

“The judges who sit on the Judicial Conference are tasked with making important decisions on federal judiciary policy, from rules of evidence and civil procedure to directives on travel and codes of conduct,” Fix the Court executive director Gabe Roth said. “Yet there is no online database of all of the committees, their roles and who sits on them, and it is nearly impossible to locate their work on various matters until months after the fact, if at all.”

For example, the membership of Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management, which helped oversee the creation of the 2011-15 cameras-in-courts pilot program, is not listed online. To find out about the meetings of the Judicial Conference, one must periodically check the Federal Register, yet the Register itself does not list all the meetings that the Conference holds. The Conference does send reports about some of its meetings to Congress, yet that often does not happen until months later.

In the weeks ahead, Fix the Court will seek to work with Administrative Office of U.S. Courts to increase the amount of information released by the Conference in a way that fairly balances FTC’s concerns about transparency with any Conference concerns about the privacy of judicial deliberations.

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