Judiciary Repeats Calls for Improved Security for Judges, Agrees to Administer Workplace Survey

The Judicial Conference of the U.S. heard a special report on judicial security on Sept. 20. The conference also agreed to administer regular workplace surveys to employees and to extend more flexibility for remote public access to certain proceedings when the national emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic ends, according to a press release.

According to a press release, the Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act, which is named after the son of U.S. District Judge Esther Salas who was murdered during an attack on the judge’s home in 2020, offers protection to judges and their families. The act would allow judges to shield their own personal identifiable information, like home addresses, from public websites.

“The safety of judges and their families is essential – not just to the individuals involved, but to our democracy. Our system of justice depends on judges who are free to carry out their Constitutional duties without fear of reprisal or violence,” said U.S. Circuit Judge and chair of the conference’s Committee on Judicial Security Richard Sullivan in the press release.

The conference also approved use of a workplace survey which follows the implementation of more than 30 workplace-related improvements the federal judiciary said it’s implemented over the past four years.

The survey will provide insight into the impact and effectiveness of the recent changes and build on progress made. The Federal Judicial Center will administer and disseminate the survey to employees, managers, unit executives and judges. It will be voluntary, according to the conference, and all information collected will remain confidential and anonymous.

On Sept. 20, the conference also extended the temporary pandemic-related exception to its broadcasting policy which was put in place in 2020. The exception allows the use of teleconferencing for the public and media to listen to civil and bankruptcy court proceedings while access to the courthouse remains restricted, according to the conference. The conference noted the amendment extends the exception for an additional 120 days after it finds the emergency conditions declared by the President of the U.S. no longer exist. 

The conference said the extension is intended to aid courts in the transition to post-pandemic operations. The primary committee covering the broadcast policy is studying its efficacy around access to justice to prepare for any future emergencies that would restrict courthouse access. 

The conference consists of 26 members and the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court has authority over the policy-making body. The other members are chief judges of the 13 appellate courts, a district judge from each of the 12 circuits and the chief judge of the Court of International Trade. It meets twice a year to consider policies related to the court system and make recommendations to congress about the judicial branch. 

On Sept. 20, the conference met in person at the Supreme Court ahead of the start of the next term on Oct. 3. It’s also anticipated the high court will reopen to the public on that date.

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