The federal Judiciary’s national policy-making body today agreed to administer regular workplace surveys to its employees and to extend flexibilities for remote public access to certain proceedings when the national emergency ends.
The Judicial Conference of the United States also heard a special report on judicial security.
“The safety of judges and their families is essential – not just to the individuals involved, but to our democracy. Our system of justice depends on judges who are free to carry out their Constitutional duties without fear of reprisal or violence,” said U.S. Circuit Judge Richard J. Sullivan, chair of the Conference’s Committee on Judicial Security.
The Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act – named after the son of U.S. District Judge Esther Salas, who was murdered during an attack at the judge’s home in July 2020 – offers important protection to judges and their families by permitting them to shield their personal identifiable information, such as home addresses, from public websites.
Sullivan said, “This legislation is a needed step in the protection of the Judiciary, and the rule of law and we urge members of Congress to enact Daniel’s Law as quickly as possible – this term – as it ultimately affects all Americans, not just judges.”
The workplace survey approved by the Conference follows the implementation of more than 30 workplace-related improvements implemented throughout the Judiciary over the last four years.
A uniform workplace survey across the Judiciary will assess the overall workplace and provide additional valuable insight into the impact and effectiveness of the numerous improvements the Judiciary has made to its policies and processes. It will allow the Judiciary to build on the considerable progress achieved to date and continue to sustain its commitment to ensuring an exemplary workplace.
The Federal Judicial Center will administer and disseminate the survey to all Judiciary employees, managers, unit executives, and judges for their voluntary participation. Information will be collected confidentially and anonymously.
Today the Conference also voted to amend the temporary pandemic-related exception to its broadcasting policy, put in place by the Conference in 2020, which allows the use of teleconferencing to enable members of the public and media to listen to civil and bankruptcy court proceedings while public access to the courthouse is restricted. The amendment extends the exception for an additional 120 days after the Conference finds that the emergency conditions due to the national emergency declared by the President no longer exist.
As the pandemic’s impact on court operations has abated in some parts of the country, courts have conducted an increasing number of in-person proceedings. However, nearly all courts continue to conduct civil and bankruptcy proceedings by video- or teleconferencing in at least some circumstances. The use of teleconferencing to allow the public and the media to listen to remote civil and bankruptcy proceedings continues to be a useful tool while physical access to courtrooms is restricted.
To alleviate any concern that the temporary exception could end abruptly, the Conference agreed to extend the exception for an additional 120 days to help courts maintain flexibility as they transition to post pandemic operations. The primary committee with jurisdiction over this topic continues to study the broadcasting of court proceedings as it relates to access to justice for the parties, counsel, and the public and to prepare for future emergencies that restrict access to courthouses.
The 26-member Judicial Conference (pdf) is the policy-making body for the federal court system. By statute, the Chief Justice of the United States serves as its presiding officer and its members are the chief judges of the 13 courts of appeals, a district judge from each of the 12 geographic circuits, and the chief judge of the Court of International Trade.
The Conference convenes twice a year to consider administrative and policy issues affecting the court system, and to make recommendations to Congress concerning legislation involving the Judicial Branch. The Conference met today in person at the Supreme Court.
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