John Roberts, Chief Justice of the United States, issued a 2014 year-end report on the judiciary.
The Chief Justice focused on the U.S. Courts and their adaptation to improvements in information technology. Essentially, the Chief Justice explained that the federal court system is and will be slow to adopt new technology to its operations. The goal of the federal court system is to provide litigants fair and efficient access to courts, the Chief Justice stated. The Chief Justice made a reference to the tortoises on the bases of the Supreme Court’s exterior lampposts as a symbol of the judiciary’s commitment to constant but deliberate progress in the cause of justice.
[Comment: But a tortoise’s pace is very slow, and it is a presumption that the slow pace is for the cause of justice. It can easily become an obstacle to progress as well (in 2014, in particular, the issues with police authority and its effects on the community as well as the judiciary’s interaction with law enforcement and citizens (that is, grand juries) make this point (of the court’s approach as being an obstacle to progress) salient during this period of assessing the fairness of the court system to all citizens).
The Court is as reliant on the consent of the governed as other government institutions, but it is interesting that the Chief Justice did not discuss this aspect in the report.]
Continuing with the report, the Chief Justice identified several technological improvements that the federal court system has adopted:
- Computer-assisted legal research.
- Computer-assisted graphics, video, and other technological aids to facilitate communications with judges and juries in the courtroom.
- Automation of the federal court’s filing, acceptances, and retrieval of documents that each court receives each day (electronic case filing and case management (CM/ECF).
- Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) allows the public to find court records in a way not possible before CM/ECF.
For the future, the Chief Justice noted that the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts are planning to develop an updated CM/ECF, which will add a central sign-on feature. Also, the Chief Justice added, the future plans include, for example, automatic calendaring notices to interested parties.
The Supreme Court will develop its own electronic filing system in 2016 or so, the Chief Justice explained. The Court will provide further information about its plans in the coming months, the Chief Justice stated.
[Note 1: Judicial pay has remained at the 2014 level for 2015. See Executive Order 13655, schedule 7 (https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/salaries-wages/pay-executive-order-2014-adjustments-of-certain-rates-of-pay.pdf).
|Position||Pay in 2010-2013 (in dollars)||Pay in 2014 (in dollars)||Pay in 2015 (in dollars)|
|Chief Justice of the United States||223,500||255,500||255,500|
|Associate Justices of the Supreme Court||213,900||244,400||244,400|
|Judges of the Court of International Trade||174,000||199,100||199,100|
In the appendix to the report, the Chief Justice provides and explanation of the workload of the judiciary. I will focus on the Supreme Court’s workload. Six per curiam decisions were issued during this term in cases that were not argued.
|In forma pauperis||6846||7132||6627||6142||6576||6299||6160||6005||5808|