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Federal Judicial Center

fjc court courts research

The Federal Judicial Center (FJC) was created by Congress in 1967 (28 U.S.C.A. § 620) to enhance the growth of JUDICIAL ADMINISTRATION in federal courts. It has become the judicial branch's agency for planning and policy research, systems development, and continuing education for judges and court personnel. It is located in the Thurgood Marshall Federal Judiciary Building, in Washington, D.C.

Because of increasing caseloads and the growing complexity of the law, court administration has become an important part of the judicial branch. Congress gave the FJC a broad mandate to improve the performance of the courts and judges through research, planning, and education.

The FJC conducts research on the operation of federal courts and coordinates similar research with other public and private persons and agencies. The FJC works with its state-court counterpart, the National Center for State Courts, which is located in Williamsburg, Virginia, on issues that are common to state and federal courts. The staff of the FJC has conducted research on the workings of different rules of federal procedure and on topics such as the role of court-appointed experts. The FJC also conducts empirical studies on the courts, analyzing the ways in which different federal courts process certain types of cases. In addition, it provides support to judicial systems in foreign countries.

The research and planning efforts of the FJC extend to providing support for the JUDICIAL CONFERENCE OF THE UNITED STATES. The Judicial Conference is composed of the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, the chief judge from each circuit court of appeals, the chief judge of the Court of International Trade, and a district judge from each circuit. The conference is the federal judiciary's central policy-making organ and the federal court's chief liaison with Congress. It meets twice per year and functions through a system of twenty-five committees that focus on particular judicial and administrative issues. The FJC's research support to these committees is critical to their effectiveness.

The FJC has also has had a role in the introduction of computers and automated data processing to the court system. It has developed materials to help courts around the United States move from tracking cases in large ledger books to using computer database systems.

Continuing education for judges and court personnel is another major responsibility of the FJC. The FJC presents seminars and other types of training that help the federal courts prepare for legislative changes in criminal and CIVIL LAW. Topical programs in areas such as immigration law and sentencing guidelines are among the FJC's educational offerings. The FJC also prepares handbooks and other written materials to teach new judges and court personnel how to carry out their duties fairly and efficiently.

The FJC's basic policies and activities are determined by its board, which includes two judges of the circuit courts of appeals, three judges of the district courts, and one BANKRUPTCY judge. The Judicial Conference elects these members for four-year terms. The chief justice of the Supreme Court acts as chair, and the director of the ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE OF THE U.S. COURTS is also a non-elected member.

As of 2002, the FJC had an annual budget of $20 million and a staff of 142 people. It has relied increasingly on the use of broadcasting to deliver educational and informational programming through its Federal Judicial Television Network. By 2001, it was presenting over 2,000 hours of televised programming through this network to 300 federal court locations. In addition, the FJC has begun to distribute computerbased instructional programs.

FURTHER READINGS

Federal Judicial Center 2001 Annual Report. Available online at <www.fjc.gov> (accessed November 12, 2003).

U.S. Government Manual Website. Available online at <www.gpoaccess.gov/gmanual> (accessed November 10, 1993).

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