October 2009:
FBA Endorses Federal Judgeships Legislation

Washington Watch | October 2009
By Bruce Moyer

The Issues Agenda is the annual list of policy and legislative priorities to which the Federal Bar Association commits the attention and resources of its government relations program. Drafted by the Government Relations Committee with input from members, chapters, sections, and divisions, the Issues Agenda for 2009–2010—as reproduced below— was approved by the FBA Board of Directors at its July 24 meeting.

Legislative Issues To Be Actively Pursued

  • Support the federal judiciary consistent with and in implementation of resolutions previously adopted by the Federal Bar Association, including support for:
    — Equitable compensation and regular periodic adjustments for the federal judiciary, as well as senior officials of the Executive Branch and Members of Congress, to promote the recruitment and retention of the highest quality public servants;
    — Authorization and establishment of additional permanent and temporary federal judgeships, including bankruptcy judgeships, along with support personnel;
    — Full funding of courthouse construction proposed by the U.S. Judicial Conference; and
    — Adequate security measures to protect the federal judiciary, their families and court personnel in and outside the courthouse, while preserving meaningful public access to judicial proceedings.
  • Reaffirm the importance of the independence of the judiciary, recognizing that judicial decisions are not immune from scrutiny, but are to be made solely on the basis of the law.
  • Support the professionalism and stature of attorneys employed by the federal government, including:
    — Enhancements to compensation packages, including pay and retirement benefits, to assist in recruitment and retention;
    — Expansion, consistent with applicable conflict of interest laws, of policies encouraging full participation in professional organizations and pro bono legal activities, including approval for use of administrative leave;
    — Enhanced federal funding for participation in continuing legal education and training programs, including paid tuition and administrative leave;
    — Establishment of programs for student loan deferral and repayment assistance for all federal attorneys, including federal law clerks, federal defenders and judge advocates of the Armed Forces, in support of recruitment and retention efforts.
  • Support efforts to advance fairness and consistency in federal sentencing, while preserving judicial independence and discretion to deal with the particular circumstances of individual cases.
  • Encourage and contribute to a discussion of the competing considerations in the nation’s war against terror between the protection of civil liberties and the interests of national security.
  • Support Congressional funding to permit an increase in compensation rates for Criminal Justice Act panel attorneys, consistent with and in implementation of resolutions previously adopted by the FBA.
  • Support the administrative judiciary, through the establishment of an Administrative Law Judge Conference, responsible for the testing, selection and appointment of federal administrative law judges, as well as appropriate action by the Congress and the Executive Branch to preserve in future statutes the uniformity of process and qualifications of presiding officers contemplated by the Administrative Procedure Act.
  • Support efforts by the Social Security Administration to take appropriate steps to ensure the security of its administrative law judges and all others who participate in its proceedings.
  • Support the restoration of criminal jurisdiction to Indian tribal courts, in accordance with federal, state and tribal law, over non-Indian offenders in cases of domestic and family violence.
  • Address efforts by the Social Security Administration to reorganize its disability adjudication programs.
  • Support legislative and administrative improvements to the veterans disability claims process in the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs to assure equitable and expeditious determinations.
  • Support proposals to expand the availability of feebased representation of veterans in the disability claims process and to oppose any efforts to repeal the authority of attorney representation to veterans in the furtherance of such claims. 
  • Encourage and contribute to a discussion of the competing considerations between governmental restrictions to guard against epidemics and pandemics and the preservation of individual rights, as well as the use of technology to ensure the continuance of participatory governance.

Legislative Issues To Be Monitored

  • Support the federal judiciary consistent with and in implementation of resolutions previously adopted by the Federal Bar Association, including support for:
    — Adequate funding for the general and continuing operations of the federal courts, including an equitable level of rent and facilities expense consistent with actual costs, budgetary constraints, staffing needs and security considerations, to permit the courts to fulfill their constitutional and statutory responsibilities;
    — Development of strategies to reduce the time required to fill federal judicial vacancies; and
    — Expansion of and enhanced federal funding for continuing legal education and training programs for the federal judiciary.
  • Advocate strict scrutiny of legislation proposing to grant original jurisdiction to federal authorities over crimes traditionally reserved to state and local prosecution. 
  • Oppose the division of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, consistent with its capacity to effectively and efficiently render justice. 
  • Encourage and contribute to a discussion of the competing considerations vis-à-vis proposed legislation which would authorize federal judges, in their discretion, to permit photographing, electronic recording, broadcasting, and televising of federal court proceedings in appropriate circumstances. 
  • Address proposals to amend the Uniform Code of Military Justice and to make changes to the military justice system. 
  • Oppose proposed “user fees” in Social Security and SSI cases, consistent with and in implementation of resolutions previously adopted by the FBA. 
  • Support efforts to assure the continued use and independence of administrative law judges in the adjudication of Medicare benefit appeals. 
  • Support the aims of the Indian Child Welfare Act to protect American Indian and Alaska Native families by recognizing the importance of tribal authority, culture and tradition in decision making for children subject to the Act.

Bruce Moyer is government relations counsel for the FBA. © 2009 Bruce Moyer. All rights reserved.

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