Federal Judiciary:

Bankruptcy Judgeship Requests, 1993-1997

T-GGD-97-183: Published: Sep 22, 1997. Publicly Released: Sep 22, 1997.

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GAO discussed the federal judiciary's assessment of its bankruptcy judgeship needs in the 1993, 1995, and 1997 assessment cycles.

GAO found that: (1) the Judicial Conference's Bankruptcy Committee and the Judicial Conference generally followed the Conference's process and policies, and consistently applied the Conference's workload standards in assessing individual districts' requests for additional judgeships; (2) neither the Committtee nor the Conference approved any request for additional judgeships from districts whose weighted case filings did not meet the minimum standard; (3) the Bankruptcy Committee also asked that districts requesting judgeships provide information on several factors, other than weighted filings, that may affect their need for additional judges; (4) according to officials at the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AOUSC), neither the Committee nor the Conference keeps written documentation on how the available data were used in assessing judgeship requests; (5) according to AOUSC, the use of such information is inherently judgmental; (6) time devoted to noncase-related travel could affect the time judges have to devote to individual cases; (7) in assessing bankruptcy judges' workload, the Judicial Conference assumes that a bankruptcy judge will spend, on average, about 30 percent of his or her time-about 600 hours, or 75 work days per year-on noncase-related matters; (8) GAO received information on non-case related travel from 80 of the 84 authorized judges in the 15 districts that would receive or share one of the judgeships requested in 1997; (9) these 80 judges reported a total of 416 noncase-related trips in 1995 and 403 in 1996, and GAO calculated that they each traveled an average of 12.5 work days for non case-related travel in each of these years; (10) about 98 percent of these trips were made to destinations within the United States; (11) together, circuit or district meetings and activities, Judicial Conference meetings and activities, and workshops, seminars, and other activities sponsored by the AOUSC or the Federal Judicial Center, accounted for about 66 percent of all trips and 74 percent of all non-case related travel workdays in 1995; and (12) comparable figures for 1996 were about 67 percent and about 73 percent, respectively.

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