On The Passage Of The “Judicial Administration And Technical Amendments Act Of 2008”

Mr. President, today the Senate has passed the Judicial Administration and Technical Amendments Act of 2008, a bill to provide important assistance to the men and women who comprise our Federal judiciary system.  I am pleased the Senate has given its unanimous support to this important legislation. 


I thank Senators Schumer and Sessions for moving this bill through the Senate.  Four years ago, a similar bipartisan measure I introduced never moved out of Committee in a Republican Congress.  I am glad that, in a Democratic Congress, the bill we pass today has not suffered a similar fate.  I hope the House of Representatives will promptly consider this bipartisan measure, and the President will sign it into law. 


This bill is intended to improve the administration and efficiency of our Federal court system by replacing antiquated processes and bureaucratic hurdles with the necessary tools for the 21stcentury.  Those who honorably serve on our Federal judiciary do not deserve to experience unnecessary bureaucratic delays in fulfilling their constitutional duties.  Their dedication to defend our Constitution, and deliver justice in a neutral and unbiased manner, ought to be met by an equal commitment from Congress to provide the tools for them to fulfill their critical duties as effectively and efficiently as possible. 


The legislation we pass today contains technical and substantive proposals carried over from previous Congresses.  It also contains additional proposals that the Federal judiciary believes will improve its operations and allow it to continue to serve as a bulwark protecting our individual rights and liberties. 


First, the provisions in the bill facilitate and update judicial operations.  For example, the bill would authorize realignments in the place of holding court in specified district courts.  It also would remove a “public drawing” requirement for the selection of names for jury wheels, which is now a function performed more efficiently by computers.  These provisions would add convenience to the men and women – who as lawyers, litigants, and jurors – appear before our Federal courts.


Second, the bill contains provisions that would improve judicial resource management and strengthen the constitutional protection of Americans’ right to serve on juries.  The bill would make a juror eligible to receive a $10 supplemental fee after 10 days of trial service instead of 30 days.  Juries serve to vindicate the rights of all Americans, including the poor, the powerless, and the marginalized.  I am glad this bill takes steps to ensure that economic hardship will not be an obstacle to an individual performing his or her duty to serve on a jury.  Equally important, the bill takes important steps to ensure that no American will be threatened or intimidated from exercising their right to serve on a jury. 


Third, in the area of criminal justice, numerous provisions in the bill would also clarify existing law to better fulfill Congress’s original intent or to make technical corrections.  In particular, I am glad the bill would explicitly authorize the Director of Administrative Office to provide goods and services to pretrial defendants and clarify similar authority recently made available for post-conviction offenders through the Second Chance Act of 2007.  Under current law, there is no explicit statutory authority to provide for services on behalf of offenders who do not suffer from substance abuse problems or psychiatric disorders.  This provision would fill in that gap by providing services to pretrial defendants to ensure their appearance at trial.


I am also pleased that the bill contains a provision, similar to the JUDGES Act that I cosponsored in 2003, that would reverse the troubling and ill-conceived provisions in the so-called Republican Feeney Amendment that limited the number of Federal judges who can serve on the Sentencing Commission.  Our Federal judges are experts on sentencing policy, and I am glad this restoration has been included.


I thank the organizations that have supported this bill.  I am especially grateful to the Administrative Office of the Courts who, on behalf of the Judicial Conference, sent us policy recommendations from the Federal Judiciary.  Many of those recommendations are included in this bill, and I commend them for working so hard to enact this measure. 


Our independent judiciary is the envy of the world.  Yet, in these changing times and circumstances, the judiciary needs improvements to increase its efficiency and administrative operations.  With passage of this bill, the Senate has taken an important step to ensure that the Federal judiciary has the tools to keep up with the changes and challenges of the 21st century. 


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