Judicial Conference of the United States

Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps

Page 51

The Judicial Conference of the United States formulates the administrative policies for the federal courts. The Judicial Conference also makes recommendations on a wide range of topics that relate to the federal courts. The conference is chaired by the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Other members include the chief judge of each federal judicial circuit, one district judge from each federal judicial circuit, and the chief judge of the U.S. Court of International Trade.

The Judicial Conference was created in response to a need for uniformity in rules and procedures in the federal court system. In the early 1920s, Chief Justice WILLIAM H. TAFT, of the Supreme Court, led a reform effort that urged centralized review of federal district courts. Until that time the procedures and practices in federal trial courts varied widely from circuit to circuit, causing confusion among attorneys and judges. The result of the reform effort was the passage in 1922 of a federal statute that created the Conference of Senior Circuit Judges (Pub. L. No. 67-297, 423 Stat. 837, 838). The Conference of Senior Circuit Judges was renamed the Judicial Conference of the United States in 1948 (Act of June 25, 1948, ch. 646, 62 Stat. 902, § 331 [codified as amended at 28 U.S.C.A. § 331 (1988)]).

The Judicial Conference is a creation of Congress, and it has only the powers that Congress gives it. Its membership and duties have been expanded by Congress, but its primary missions have remained the same.

The Judicial Conference performs two major functions. The first is to study and offer improvements on federal court rules and procedures. These rules and procedures cover matters ranging from the sentencing of a criminal defendant to the service of a complaint and court summons on a civil defendant. The second major function of the Judicial Conference is to supervise the administration of the federal courts.

In its administrative capacity, the Judicial Conference oversees the ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE OF THE U.S. COURTS. This is the administrative nerve center of the federal courts. The Judicial Conference formulates the fiscal and personnel policies for the federal courts, and the Administrative Office implements those policies.

The Judicial Conference also reviews orders that judicial councils for the federal circuits issue on complaints of judicial misconduct or judicial disability, and it may reassign federal...

To continue reading