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Federal Judges



Who appoints federal judges?

How are new judgeships created?

How do I file a complaint against a judge?

What are the qualifications for becoming a federal judge?

How is a chief judge selected?

What is a senior judge?

What are bankruptcy judges?

How are they appointed?

What are federal magistrate judges?


Document Request



How do I request a hearing or a report?

Can I obtain a hearing on this website?

Can I obtain a report on this website?



Court Information



How many courts of appeals are there?

How many district courts are there?

Can I connect to U.S. Court websites from your website?


Committee Hearings

How can I attend a Committee Hearing? Are they open to the public?

How do I obtain Witness Testimony given at a hearing?

Is there a difference between a witness' Prepared Statement and a witness' testimony?


The Judicial Conference



What is the Judicial Conference of the United States? When was it established?

What are the duties and responsibilities of the Judicial Conference?

Who are the members of the Judicial Conference?

When and where does the Judicial Conference meet?

How does the Judicial Conference do its work?

Who are the committee members and how are they appointed?






Q: Who appoints federal judges?

Supreme Court justices, court of appeals judges, and district court judges are nominated by the President and confirmed by the United States Senate, as stated in the Constitution. The names of potential nominees often are recommended by senators or sometimes members of the House who are of the President's political party. The Senate Judiciary Committee typically conducts confirmation hearings for each nominee. Article III of the Constitution states that these judicial officers are appointed for a life term. The federal Judiciary, the Judicial Conference of the United States, and the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts play no role in the nomination and confirmation process.











Q: How are new judgeships created?

Court of appeals and district court judgeships are created by legislation that must be enacted by Congress. New judgeships were created in December 1990, under Public Law 101-650, which established 11 new court of appeals and 74 new district court judgeships. In 1999, nine additional District Court (Article III) judgeships were created, and under the appropriations bill for FY2001 the creation of 10 new district courts were authorized. The Judicial Conference (through its Judicial Resources Committee) surveys the judgeship needs of the courts every other year. A threshold for the number of weighted filings per judgeship is the key factor in determining when an additional judgeship will be requested. Other factors may include geography, number of senior judges, and mix of cases. The Judicial Conference presents its judgeship recommendations to Congress.










Q: What are the qualifications for becoming a federal judge?

The Constitution sets forth no specific requirements. However, members of Congress, who typically recommend potential nominees, and the Department of Justice, which reviews nominees' qualifications, have developed their own informal criteria.














Q: How is a chief judge selected?

One is not nominated or appointed to the position of chief judge (except for the Chief Justice of the United States); they assume the position based on seniority. The same criteria exists for circuit and district chiefs. The chief judge is the judge in regular active service who is senior in commission of those judges who are (1) 64 years of age or under; (2) have served for one year or more as a judge; and (3) have not previously served as chief judge.










Q: What is a senior judge?

The "Rule of 80" is the commonly used shorthand for the age and service requirement for a judge to assume senior status, as set forth in Title 28 of the US. Code, Section 371(c). Beginning at age 65, a judge may retire at his or her current salary or take senior status after performing 15 years of active service as an Article III judge (65+15 = 80). A sliding scale of increasing age and decreasing service results in eligibility for retirement compensation at age 70 with a minimum of 10 years of service (70+10=80). Senior judges, who essentially provide volunteer service to the courts, typically handle about 15 percent of the federal courts' workload annually.










Q: What are bankruptcy judges? How are they appointed?

A U.S. bankruptcy judge is a judicial officer of the U.S. district court who is appointed by the majority of judges of the U.S. court of appeals to exercise jurisdiction over bankruptcy matters. The number of bankruptcy judges is determined by Congress. The Judicial Conference of the United States is required to submit recommendations from time to time regarding the number of bankruptcy judges needed. Bankruptcy judges are appointed for 14-year terms.













Q: What are federal magistrate judges?

A U.S. magistrate judge is a judicial officer of the district court and is appointed by majority vote of the active district judges of the court to exercise jurisdiction over matters assigned by statute as well as those delegated by the district judges. The number of magistrate judge positions is determined by the Judicial Conference of the United States, based on recommendations of the respective district courts, the judicial councils of the circuits, and the Director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. A full-time magistrate judge serves a term of eight years. Duties assigned to magistrate judges by district court judges may vary considerably from court to court.


















Q: How many courts of appeals are there?

There are 13 judicial circuits, each with a court of appeals. The smallest court is the First Circuit with six judgeships, and the largest court is the Ninth Circuit, with 28 judgeships. A list of the states that compose each circuit is set forth in Title 28 of the U.S. Code, Section 41. The number of judgeships in each circuit is set forth in Title 28 of the U.S. Code, Section 44.


















Q: How many district courts are there?

There are 89 districts in the 50 states, which are listed with their divisions in Title 28 of the U.S. Code, Sections 81-144. District courts also exist in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the District of Columbia, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands. In total there are 94 U.S. district courts. Some states, such as Alaska, are composed of a single judicial district. Others, such as California, are composed of multiple judicial districts. The number of judgeships allotted to each district is set forth in Title 28 of the U.S. Code, Section 133.










Q: How do I file a complaint against a judge?

The complaint process is not intended to address complaints related to the merits of a case or a court's decision. Any person alleging that a judge of the United States has engaged in conduct prejudicial to the effective and expeditious administration of the business of the courts, or that such officer cannot discharge all the duties of the office because of physical or mental disability, may file a complaint with the clerk of the court of appeals for that circuit or applicable national court. The statute governing this complaint mechanism is set out at Title 28, U.S. Code, Section 372(c).












Q: Can I connect to the U.S. Courts that have websites?

Yes, you can access the individual United States Court websites by clicking here. This will take you to the page with World Wide Web links that relate to the law or legislation.












Q: How do I request a hearing or a report?

The Senate Judiciary Committee will send to you free of charge any Senate Judiciary Committee hearing or report that is currently in print and available. To obtain the correct document, when you write us please describe which document you are interested in by Senate Hearing # or Senate Report #.

Please find our hearing link on the homepage with numbers/dates listed on this website. Please send any written requests for documents to the committee at this address:

United States Senate
Committee on the Judiciary
Attention: Documents Clerk
Washington, DC 20510-6275







Can I obtain a hearing on this website?

The U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary website lists mailing information to request printed hearings there are some 106th Congress and earlier hearings that are available electronically in adobe .PDF format. Hearings held prior to January 1999 are not available online on this website.












Can I obtain a report on this website?

The U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary lists the Senate Judiciary Committee's Reports through the link on the homepage.



Reports produced prior to the 104th Congress (before January 1995) are not available online.















How can I attend a Committee Hearing? Are they open to the public?

Our hearings are open to the public. Attending a committee hearing is very simple. A person should arrive early because admission is on a first come first serve basis. Typically seating is limited due to the room accomodations. Hearings are held in both the morning and/or the afternoon. Check our "Hearings" button for our weekly schedule.













How do I obtain Witness Testimony submitted in a hearing?

Prepared Testimony is made available on this website through the hearings link on the navigation bar. They are arranged by hearing date. Click on the name of the witness to the right of the witness list to view testimony IF THE WITNESS PROVIDED the Committee with an electronic version of their submitted testimony.













Is there a difference between witnesses' Prepared Statements and a transcript?

Yes, there is a difference between the two. Witnesses who appear before the committee and give testimony will provide the committee a copy of the written testimony also known as a prepared statement. They will often read this prepared statement into the record. After the witnesses have all had an opportunity to deliver their prepared statements, the Senators will engage the witnesses in a period of Question and Answer. The transcript is made up of the prepared statements of witnesses plus the Question & Answer period. Official printed hearings can take up to 12 months to be printed.














Q: What is the Judicial Conference of the United States? When was it established?

The Conference of Senior Circuit Judges was created by Congress in 1922, to "serve as the principal policy making body concerned with the administration of the United States Courts." In 1948, Congress enacted Section 331 of Title 28, U.S. Code, changing the name to the Judicial Conference of the United States. District judges formally were added to the Conference in 1957.










Q: What are the duties and responsibilities of the Judicial Conference?

As in 1922, the fundamental purpose of the Judicial Conference today is to make policy with regard to the administration of the United States courts. Section 331 of Title 28 specifically provides that the Conference shall:

  • make a comprehensive survey of the conditions of business in the courts of the United States;
  • prepare plans for the assignment of judges to or from courts of appeals or district courts, where necessary;
  • submit suggestions to the various courts in the interest of promoting uniformity of management procedures and the expeditious conduct of court business;
  • exercise authority provided in 28 U.S.C. Section 372(c) for the review of circuit council conduct and disability orders filed under that section and carry on a continuous study of the operation and effect of the general rules of practice and procedure in use within the federal courts, as prescribed by the Supreme Court pursuant to law.

The Judicial Conference also supervises the Director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts in the performance of his duties as the administrative officer of the courts of the United States under 28 U.S.C. Section 604. In addition, certain statutes authorize the Judicial Conference to act in a variety of specific areas dealing with the administration of the courts.

The Chief Justice is required to submit to Congress an annual report of the proceedings of the Judicial Conference and its recommendations for legislation.


Q: Who are the members of the Judicial Conference?

The Chief Justice of the United States is the presiding officer of the Judicial Conference. Membership is comprised of the chief judge of each judicial circuit, the chief judge of the Court of International Trade, and a district judge from each regional judicial circuit, who is elected for a term of not less than three nor more than five successive years as established by majority vote of all circuit and district judges of the circuit represented (28 U.S.C. Section 331).










Q: When and where does the Judicial Conference meet?

The statute requires the Chief Justice to summon the Judicial Conference into session annually, at such time and place in the United States as he may designate. Traditionally the Chief Justice has convened two meetings of the Conference each year, one in September and one in March. The members are required to attend each session unless excused by the Chief Justice, who will then designate a replacement. The Conference generally meets in Washington, D.C., at the Supreme Court Building.










Q: How does the Judicial Conference do its work?

The Conference operates through a network of committees created to address and advise on a wide variety of subjects, such as automation, personnel, probation and pretrial services, sentencing, space and security, and judicial salaries and benefits. The seven-member Executive Committee of the Judicial Conference serves as the senior executive arm of the Conference, acting on its behalf between sessions on matters requiring emergency action. Among it responsibilities, the Executive Committee reviews the jurisdiction of Conference committees, and establishes and publishes procedures for assembling Conference and committee agendas.

The Director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts serves as Secretary to the Judicial Conference. The assistant director of the Office of the Judicial Conference Executive Secretariat in the Administrative Office coordinates administrative support to the Conference itself and its Executive Committee, and also coordinates the activities of the Executive Secretariat, which consists of senior members of the Administrative Office's professional staff, who dedicate all or a substantial portion of their time to the work of the Judicial Conference and its committees.


Q: Who are the committee members and how are they appointed?

The Chief Justice has sole authority to make committee appointments. The Director of the Administrative Office and the assistant director, Judicial Conference Executive Secretariat collate the expressed interests of judicial officers and their recommendations of others who may be considered for appointments, and the Director forwards the suggestions to the Chief Justice. Committee chairpersons may appoint subcommittees composed of members of the committee. Appointment of subcommittees composed of non-committee members requires the approval of the Chief Justice.

As a general rule, committee appointments are for a term of three years, subject to one reappointment. Terms are staggered to minimize turnover each year. Judges who desire committee service, or wish to recommend others for assignments, may make their interests or recommendations known at any time, in writing, to the Director of the Administrative Office (Attention: Judicial Conference Executive Secretariat). A permanent file is maintained for reference during the annual appointment process.


Q: How do I find out about employment opportunities in the federal courts?

The federal court system's personnel decisions are decentralized. This means that each court unit does its own advertising and hiring for job positions. Court unit heads generally control the hiring within their office so that chief probation officers, staff attorneys, circuit executives, clerks of court, and circuit librarians each exercise such authority within their offices. Judges select and hire their own chambers staff. Some employment opportunities are available on this web site but often the clerk's office of the court of appeals, district, or bankruptcy court is the best source for a complete listing. The federal Judiciary is committed to the national policy of ensuring equal employment opportunity to all persons.

 



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