Though it wasn’t the big-ticket reform we had hoped for — a $10 million reduction in the Supreme Court’s non-security budget until they adopted an ethics code — there are still several provisions in the House and Senate Appropriations bill reports that would make the third branch more accountable.
On the House side, there’s language directing the AO to continue to update the committee on its work to improve workplace conduct (i.e., anti-harassment) policies and to provide appropriate public access to various workplace studies being conducted by GAO and NAPA.
On the Senate side, the House language is included and expanded upon, asserting that misconduct orders should be released timely and publicly and the Office of Judicial Integrity should be maintained.
The Senate also wants to see that the judiciary is improving its management of IT contracts (the subject of the referenced GAO report) and is hiring a CIO, and they want to ensure that the judiciary’s sluggish response to the new federal law requiring judges’ — and justices’ — annual disclosures and stock transaction reports be posted online is ramped up (a big a FTC win since we’re primarily the ones complaining about the sluggishness).
Here’s the language from the House bill report:
Workplace Conduct.—The Committee looks forward to receiving GAO’s review of workplace misconduct in the Federal Judiciary and recommendations for how this office can help foster a better workplace environment for all Judicial employees. The Committee directs the Administrative Office’s Office of Judicial Integrity to continue to inform Congress in their annual Congressional budget on the challenges remaining to provide an exemplary workplace for every judge and every court employee. As the Judiciary collaborates with GAO and other stakeholders on various workplace studies, the Committee expects the Judiciary and the Federal Judicial Center to provide regular and appropriate access to all necessary information requested by GAO and the National Academy of Public Administration so that their work can be completed in a timely manner.
Here’s the language from the Senate bill report:
Improving IT Management.—The AO is directed to submit a report to the Committee on the status of recommendations made in GAO report 22–105068 no later than 120 days after enactment of this act. The report shall include actions both taken and planned, and their associated costs.
Workplace Misconduct.—The Judiciary should continue collaborating with GAO and other stakeholders on various workplace studies. The Committee expects the AO and the Federal Judicial Center to be responsive to requests for information from GAO and the National Academy of Public Administration and to provide access to necessary data requested in order for their reviews to be completed in a timely manner.
Workplace Survey.—The AO Director shall provide to the authorizing and appropriations committees reports issued by the Working Group on results from the January 2023 workplace conduct survey (appropriately anonymized) no later than 30 days after completion.
Judicial Conduct and Disability [JC&D] Act Orders.—The AO is directed to continue to report to the House and Senate authorizing and appropriations committees on Judicial Conduct and Disability [JC&D] Act orders that result in a finding of misconduct for any judge no later than 30 days after an order of the relevant judicial council becomes final or, for those orders where review by the Judicial Conference’s Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability [JC&D Committee] has been requested, no later than 30 days after the JC&D Committee’s review has been completed. The Committee notes that a single, centralized webpage on JC&D orders is located on uscourts.gov.
Office of Judicial Integrity.—The AO’s Office of Judicial Integrity shall continue to include in the Judiciary’s annual congressional budget justification the challenges remaining to help ensure an exemplary workplace for every judge and every court employee.
Courthouse Ethics and Transparency Act.—As of spring 2023, just over half of judges’ 2021 financial disclosure reports had been published in the database as required by the Courthouse Ethics and Transparency Act (Public Law 117–125). The AO is urged to ensure that sufficient resources are provided for Committee on Financial Disclosure staff so that financial disclosure reports can be reviewed and certified, as well as posted online, in a timely manner, and update the Committee on its progress. The Judiciary’s fiscal year 2024 financial plan required by section 608 of this bill shall indicate the staffing resource level dedicated to this effort.