Chief Justice John Roberts Releases his 2016 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary

This annual report by Chief Justice Roberts is down right nice.  It is a ten page summary – overview of what our Federal District Court Judges do.  I expected a two page plea at the end asking Congress to increase the paychecks of the district court judges.  He does not and need not since the summary of what these civil servants to do is proof enough that they should be paid better.

From the report:

United States district judges are the principal trial judges of our federal system. Congress has authorized 673 district judgeships, as well as four territorial positions. The active judges receive assistance from more than 500 senior district judges, who are eligible for retirement with full pay but still continue to work—most in a part-time capacity, but many full-time—without additional compensation.

As Justice Sewall observed 237 years ago, district judges “stand alone, and unassisted.” Unlike politicians, they work largely outside of the public eye. Most Americans have some sense of their role, but that perception has surely been shaped, for better and worse, by movie and television portrayals of the American jury trial.

The judge is responsible for supervising the important pretrial process and conducting the trial itself. He resolves discovery disputes, manages the selection of the jury, rules on the admission of evidence, determines the proper and understandable instruction of the jury, and resolves any issues surrounding the acceptance of the verdict and entry of judgment. Each of those steps requires special knowledge, sensitivity, and skill. The judge must have mastery of the complex rules of procedure and evidence and be able to apply those rules to the nuances of a unique controversy. As the singular authority on the bench, he must respond to every detail of an unscripted proceeding, tempering firm and decisive judgment with objectivity, insight, and compassion. This is no job for impulsive, timid, or inattentive souls.

The only thing I would add is that the district court judge does all of this with essentially two clerks and a judicial assistant.

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