U.S. Judiciary: Chief Justice John Roberts Issues 2015 Year-End Report

John Roberts, Chief Justice of the United States, issued a 2015 year-end report on the judiciary.

The Chief Justice focused on amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCivP), which became effective on December 1, 2015. The Chief Justice remarked that the government is responsible for providing a tribunal for peaceful resolution of disputes. Unlike that that occurred in the history of the United States, when disputes were resolved by dueling.

The Chief Justice noted that an advisory committee in 2010 determined that “while the federal courts are fundamentally sound, in many cases civil litigation has become too expensive, time consuming, and contentious, inhibiting effective access to the courts.”

[Author’s note: I have noticed the profound injustice explained in this observation in the employment discrimination case facing the Federal Reserve Board–Artis v. Greenspan Bernanke Yellen. The length, circuitous route, and incredible expense of time (18+ years), effort and money that the plaintiffs have had to endure in this case to resolve this claim is offensive to the conscience. Such conditions demonstrate that the court system is also broken.]

The advisory committee in 2010, the Chief Justice explained, identified four needs for procedural reform, which would–

  • Encourage greater cooperation among counsel,
  • Focus discovery–the process of obtaining information within the control of the opposing party–on what is truly necessary to resolve the case,
  • Engage judges in early and active case management, and
  • Address serious new problems associated with vast amounts of electronically stored information.

 

The Chief Justice then described some of the changes brought by the amended FRCivP envision that the parties and the court work toward controlling the time and expense of litigation.

The Chief Justice explained that idea is contained within Rule 1 of the amended FRCivP, which provides that “the Federal Rules should be construed, administered, and employed by the court and the parties to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action and proceeding.”

The Chief Justice noted that fulfillment of this goal can only occur with the willingness of the legal community to make it happen.

[Note 1: Judicial pay has increased for 2016. See Executive Order 13715, schedule 7) (https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/salaries-wages/pay-executive-order-2016-adjustments-of-certain-rates-of-pay.pdf).

 

Position Pay in 2010-2013 (in dollars) Pay in 2014 (in dollars) Pay in 2015 (in dollars) Pay in 2016 (in dollars)
Chief Justice of the United States 223,500 255,500 255,500 260,700
Associate Justices of the Supreme Court 213,900 244,400 244,400 249,300
Circuit Judges 184,500 211,200 211,200 215,400
District Judges 174,000 199,100 199,100 203,100
Judges of the Court of International Trade 174,000 199,100 199,100 203,100

]

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. Eight per curiam decisions were issued during this term in cases that were not argued.

2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Filings 8521 8857 8241 7738 8159 7857 7713 7509 7376 7033
In forma pauperis 6846 7132 6627 6142 6576 6299 6160 6005 5808 5488
Paid docket 1671 1723 1614 1596 1583 1558 1553 1504 1568 1545
Cases:
argued 87 78 75 87 82 86 79 77 79 75
disposed 82 74 72 83 77 83 73 76 77 75
signed opinions 69 67 67 74 73 75 64 73 67 66
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