oversight

Courthouse Construction: Better Courtroom Use Data Could Enhance Facility Planning and Decisionmaking

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1997-05-19.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                United States General Accounting Office

GAO             Report to Congressional Requesters




May 1997
                COURTHOUSE
                CONSTRUCTION
                Better Courtroom Use
                Data Could Enhance
                Facility Planning and
                Decisionmaking




GAO/GGD-97-39
      United States
GAO   General Accounting Office
      Washington, D.C. 20548

      General Government Division

      B-271180

      May 19, 1997

      The Honorable Sam Brownback
      Chairman, Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management,
        Restructuring, and the District of Columbia
      Committee on Governmental Affairs
      United States Senate

      The Honorable Carl Levin
      United States Senate

      The Honorable Jay C. Kim
      Chairman, Subcommittee on Public Buildings and
        Economic Development
      Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
      House of Representatives

      The Honorable James A. Traficant, Jr.
      Ranking Minority Member
      Subcommittee on Public Buildings and
        Economic Development
      Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
      House of Representatives

      The Honorable Wayne T. Gilchrest
      House of Representatives

      The General Services Administration (GSA) and the federal judiciary have
      embarked on a multibillion-dollar courthouse construction initiative aimed
      at addressing the housing needs of the federal district courts and related
      agencies. Included in this initiative are plans to construct hundreds of new
      district judge trial courtrooms to replace existing ones and to
      accommodate future increases in federal judgeships. Using GSA data, we
      estimated that the cost to build a typical trial courtroom in 1995 dollars
      could range from about $640,000 to $1.3 million depending on geographic
      location. The cost in Washington, D.C., was about $800,000. Over the last
      few years, various subcommittees and Members of Congress have become
      increasingly concerned that courtrooms may be underutilized and that
      more costly courtrooms than needed may have been, and continue to be,
      constructed. This report responds to your request to (1) determine how
      often and for what purposes courtrooms have been used and (2) examine
      what steps the judiciary is taking to assess space and courtroom usage
      issues.



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                       The judiciary’s process for administering justice is dynamic and complex.
Results in Brief       According to the judiciary, the availability of a trial courtroom is an
                       integral part of the judicial process because judges need the flexibility to
                       resolve cases more efficiently. Nonetheless, trial courtrooms, because of
                       their size and configuration, are expensive to construct, and constructing
                       any unneeded courtrooms would waste taxpayer dollars. Currently, the
                       judiciary maintains a general practice of, whenever possible, assigning a
                       trial courtroom to each district judge.

                       The extent to which trial courtrooms are utilized for trials and nontrial
                       activities1 is one indication of need, but the judiciary does not compile
                       data on how often and for what purposes courtrooms are actually used or
                       have analytically-based criteria for determining how many and what types
                       of courtrooms are needed to effectively administer justice. Therefore, the
                       judiciary does not have sufficient data to support its practice of providing
                       a trial courtroom for every district judge.

                       Our detailed work compiling data at seven geographically dispersed
                       locations—Dallas, TX; Miami, FL; Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Las Cruces,
                       NM; San Diego, CA; and Washington, D.C.—showed that courtroom usage
                       for trials and nontrial activities varied by judge and location. Furthermore,
                       on many of the workdays during 1995, courtrooms were not used at all for
                       these purposes. Our analysis for 1995 showed that:

                   •   On average, trial courtrooms were used for trial or nontrial purposes
                       about 54 percent of all the days that they could have been used. In other
                       words, these courtrooms were, on average, used for some purpose 135
                       days and vacant 115 days out of the 250 federal work days in 1995. Overall,
                       courtroom utilization rates varied by location, from 61 percent in
                       Washington, D.C., to 43 percent in Las Cruces, NM.
                   •   Courtrooms were used for trials less than one-third of the days, and the
                       use of courtrooms for trials varied by location. The highest average trial
                       usage rate was 32 percent in Miami, FL, and the lowest was 13 percent in
                       Santa Fe, NM. Nontrial activities, such as pretrial conferences, motion
                       hearings, and grand jury proceedings, consumed the remainder of the days
                       courtrooms were used. On most of the nontrial days, the courtrooms were
                       used for 2 hours or less. Figure 1 illustrates the percentage of days
                       courtrooms were used for trials and nontrial purposes and the percentage
                       of days with no such use for each of the seven locations during 1995.



                       1
                       According to AOUSC, trials are defined as any contested proceeding. Nontrial activities include
                       motion hearings, arraignments, and other proceedings.



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Figure 1: Percent of Days Courtrooms Were Used

70

                                                                                                                                 61
60                                                                                           59
     56                              56    57                            57
                                                                                             34                                  34
                                                                         25                                52
                                 26
50                                                                                                               48
            44             44                       43            43                                             35
                                                                                      41
40         24                                       25                                                                     39



30
                                                                         32
                                     30
                                                                                             25                                  27
20

            20                                      18
10                                                                                                                13


0
     Albuquerque            Dallas        Las Cruces                   Miami            San Diego           Santa Fe     Washington, DC




     Courthouse locations

            No recorded use
            Nontrial use
            Trial use




                                                Source: GAO analysis of data obtained at seven courthouse locations.




                                          •     At the six locations with more than one trial courtroom, all courtrooms at
                                                any location were seldom used for trials or nontrial activities the same
                                                day. Of the 250 workdays in 1995, Miami and Washington each had at least
                                                one unused courtroom on each of the workdays; San Diego and Dallas
                                                each had at least one unused courtroom on all but 1 day; Albuquerque had
                                                at least one of its five courtrooms unused on all but 7 days; and Las Cruces




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    had at least one courtroom unused on all but 54 days, or about 78 percent
    of the work year.
•   Senior judges—district judges who are eligible to retire but choose to
    continue to carry out judicial duties, often at reduced caseloads—used the
    courtrooms assigned to them for trials and nontrial activities considerably
    less frequently than active district judges. For example, 41 active district
    judges at the locations visited used the courtrooms assigned to them about
    65 percent of the days for both trials and nontrial activities, but average
    use for 21 senior judges was 38 percent. For trials only, the active district
    judges’ average utilization rate was 33 percent and for senior judges it was
    17 percent.

    Our discussions with district judges in the various locations showed
    diverse opinions about changes to current courtroom configurations or
    use practices. All preferred having their own courtrooms to help them
    resolve cases, but their views on the one judge, one courtroom practice
    were mixed. Some district judges, like those in Miami, were opposed to
    any type of courtroom sharing if it meant having fewer trial courtrooms
    than judges. Other district judges believed that having fewer trial
    courtrooms or a mix of full-sized and smaller courtrooms could work if
    scheduling and case management were better coordinated. According to
    the Chief Judge of the New Mexico District, a new courthouse now under
    construction in Albuquerque has been designed with fewer courtrooms
    than the projected number of judges and should facilitate sharing among
    judges, including magistrates. Likewise, senior judges are to share
    courtrooms in the new courthouse annex that is planned for San Diego.

    The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AOUSC), the judiciary’s
    administrative arm, considers the data we developed limited because we
    do not capture such other factors as (1) “latent” use whereby the threat of
    a trial in an available courtroom can leverage the disposition of cases
    before trial; or (2) cases that settle just before a scheduled trial, leaving a
    courtroom available that cannot be easily rescheduled. We agree that
    these and other factors are important considerations, but the judiciary has
    not developed data to show how much of an effect such factors may have
    on the number of courtrooms needed.

    The judiciary recognizes that it has not developed the data or performed
    the research to support its practice of providing a trial courtroom for
    every district judge. It has taken some actions intended to help it better
    understand courtroom usage, which include commissioning a study on the
    impact of providing fewer courtrooms than judges and adopting a policy



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             for exploring courtroom sharing opportunities by senior and visiting
             judges. However, these actions do not include a plan to produce data on
             the actual use of courtrooms for trials or nontrial activities or to
             systematically quantify the latent and other usage factors. In fact, the
             Federal Judicial Center (FJC), the education and research arm of the
             judiciary, and the Rand Institute for Civil Justice separately examined the
             AOUSC-commissioned study and said that it had major limitations and that
             more research must be done to adequately address the courtroom usage
             issue.


             The U.S. district courts are the federal courts of general trial jurisdiction.
Background   There are 94 district courts located throughout the United States, the
             Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the territories of Guam, the U.S. Virgin
             Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands. These courts have two
             categories of district judges who hear cases and use courtrooms. The first
             is “active district judges” who carry full caseloads. The other is “district
             judges with senior status”2 who have resigned from their active judgeships,
             but continue to carry some caseload. When an active district judge takes
             senior status, he or she creates a judicial vacancy and the president may
             nominate a replacement. In this report we refer to active district judges as
             district judges and to district judges with senior status as senior judges.
             District courts also have magistrate judges, who, according to the FJC, can
             use district courtrooms and play an integral part in resolving cases.

             Congress authorizes judgeships for each district based largely on the
             caseload. As of September 30, 1996, the judiciary reported that there were
             647 authorized district judgeships, 44 of which were classified as vacant
             positions. In addition, there were 274 senior judges.

             Historically, the judiciary’s practice has been to provide one trial
             courtroom3 for each district judge, and in many cases a courtroom is
             provided for each senior judge and additional courtroom(s) for visiting
             judges.4 According to AOUSC officials, courtrooms are an integral part of a
             court’s ability to discharge its judicial responsibilities, and no two courts

             2
              Senior status can be achieved when a district judge reaches the age and service eligibility
             requirements for retirement.
             3
               According to the U.S. Courts Design Guide, a district trial courtroom should customarily be 2,400
             square feet with a proportional ceiling height (16 feet) and contain a jury box capable of seating 12
             jurors and 6 alternates.
             4
              A visiting judge is usually a district or senior judge who is on temporary assignment to a U.S. district
             court to which he or she is not assigned. Other members of the judiciary, such as a circuit judge, can
             also use district courtrooms.



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use exactly the same procedure in scheduling cases to be heard or in using
courtrooms. But there are similarities in how courtrooms are used. Cases
are tried, witnesses testify, and juries serve in district trial courtrooms. In
addition to trials, other legal proceedings involving the participation of a
judge, such as arraignments/ pleas and pretrial conferences, are
sometimes held in trial courtrooms.

In the late 1980s, the judiciary recognized that it was facing growing space
shortages, security shortfalls, and operational inefficiencies at courthouse
facilities. To address these problems, the Judicial Conference of the
United States directed each of the 94 judicial districts, with assistance
from AOUSC, to develop long-range space plans identifying where new and
additional space was needed. Generally, these plans were to assume that
each district judge would be assigned a trial courtroom. AOUSC has
provided each of the 94 districts with long-range facility planning guidance
for projecting space shortages. Under the planning process, each district is
to develop space projections that are to be approved by the district’s chief
judge and each district’s circuit judicial council. GSA uses the district
court’s 10 year space projections to develop requests for both new
courthouse construction and expansion of existing court facilities.

GSA requests funding for courthouses as part of the president’s annual
budget request to Congress. Under the Public Buildings Act of 1959, as
amended, GSA is required to submit to the Senate Committee on
Environment and Public Works and the House Committee on
Transportation and Infrastructure detailed project descriptions, called
prospectuses, that contain project cost estimates and justifications for
projects that exceed a certain cost threshold. Under the act, GSA can adjust
the threshold upward or downward on the basis of changes in
construction costs during the preceding calendar year—the threshold for
fiscal year 1997 was $1.74 million. Once courthouses are funded by
Congress, GSA is to contract with private sector firms for design and
construction work.

As a result of its planning process, the judiciary had initially identified
about 200 locations it estimated would be out of space within the next 10
years. Many of these locations also have security concerns or operational
inefficiencies. The judiciary estimated that new courthouses at these
locations would cost about $10 billion. In commenting on this report, GSA
said that expansion of the courts’ housing needs at 40 of these locations is
no longer needed or will be satisfied through leasing actions or building
modernizations. GSA and the judiciary estimate that there are now 160



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              locations that need a new courthouse or an annex to an existing building
              at an estimated cost of $8 billion. Of the 160 locations, GSA said that 40
              projects have received about $3 billion in funding, and the remaining 120
              projects will require an additional $5 billion in funding.

              The judiciary does not maintain readily available aggregate data on the
              number and cost of additional courtrooms that will result from this
              multibillion-dollar courthouse construction initiative. However, AOUSC
              workload projections indicate that the number of district judgeships could
              double or perhaps increase even more significantly by the year
              2020—from 647 judgeships in 1996 to between 1,280 judgeships and 2,410
              judgeships over this period.5 Using GSA data, we estimate that the cost to
              build a typical trial courtroom in 1995 dollars could range from about
              $650,000 to $1.3 million depending on geographic location. The cost in
              Washington, D.C., was about $800,000. Using the Washington, D.C., cost,
              we estimated that the cost of providing one courtroom for each new
              judgeship, in 1995 dollars, could range from about $500 million to
              $1.4 billion. This amount does not include the cost of replacing
              courtrooms for existing judgeships.

              In commenting on the report, AOUSC and FJC pointed out, and we agree,
              that factors such as budget constraints and availability of senior judges
              will influence the actual number of judgeships that will be added in the
              future. However, our intent in using these judgeship projections was to
              provide Congress with some perspective on the potential cost associated
              with providing a full-sized district courtroom for each of these projected
              judgeships.


              We did our work primarily at AOUSC in Washington, D.C., and at seven
Scope and     courthouses located in five judicial districts. Specifically, we reviewed the
Methodology   use of 65 district courtrooms—the 8 trial courtrooms located in Dallas, TX
              (Northern District of Texas); the 18 trial courtrooms located in Miami, FL
              (Southern District of Florida); the 5 trial courtrooms in Albuquerque, the 1
              trial courtroom in Santa Fe, and the 2 trial courtrooms in Las Cruces, NM
              (District of New Mexico);6 the 12 trial courtrooms in San Diego, CA
              (Southern District of California); and the 19 trial courtrooms in
              Washington, D.C. (District of the District of Columbia).

              5
               Long Range Plan for the Federal Courts, Judicial Conference of the United States, December 1995.
              6
               In the District of New Mexico, we included courtrooms at multiple locations in our analysis because
              many of the judges in this district customarily hold trials and nontrial hearings in courtrooms located
              in Albuquerque, Las Cruces, and Santa Fe.



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Recognizing that many variables could be used to select courthouse
locations, we chose to judgmentally select the courthouses we visited on
the basis of geographical location; the size of the courts; and, with the
exception of Dallas, locations where new courthouse construction
projects were planned or already under way. We included Dallas because
some of our staff working on this study were located in Dallas, and we
used the Dallas courthouse to test our methodology before visiting other
courthouses. We limited the number of courthouses and the time period
under review (calendar year 1995) because reviewing courtroom use at
geographically dispersed locations required time-consuming file reviews,
extensive data development, interviews with judges and their staffs, and
significant travel expense.

To determine how often and for what purposes courtrooms were used, we
analyzed data at the seven courthouse locations. Neither AOUSC nor the
courts that we visited compile or routinely use specific data on how often
or for what purposes courtrooms are used. Therefore, we had to compile
information from numerous sources. First, we reviewed the judiciary’s
Monthly Report of Trials and Other Court Activity (JS-10) for all district
judges that were assigned in 1995 to the locations that we visited and for
all visiting judges who heard cases at these locations that year. From the
JS-10 reports we determined the number of days and hours that each judge
was actually in trial and the time spent conducting nontrial court
activities. We considered all times recorded on the JS-10 reports as
courtroom usage by the judges, even though nontrial activities are
sometimes held in the judges’ chambers or conference rooms.

We validated the information taken from the JS-10 reports by analyzing the
judges’ and/or courtroom deputies’ daily calendars, trial/clerk minutes,
and case histories from the Integrated Case Management System, which is
an automated docketing system. Our analyses allowed us to determine
when and how the courtrooms were used by the district judges, senior
judges, and visiting judges for every federal working day in 1995. We also
discussed courtroom usage, including the possibility of courtroom sharing;
case scheduling; and the importance of having available courtrooms with
judges, courtroom deputies, and other court officials at the locations
visited. Also, we reviewed court management statistics and other data that
showed the use of trial courtrooms by individuals other than federal
district judges. After examining all the data, we credited each courtroom
with one day of usage for all days that the records showed that there was
any activity in it. We considered it a trial day if it had any trial activity,
regardless of any nontrial activity that also may have occurred. We



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                  determined the percentages of days that courtrooms were used for all
                  purposes by comparing actual recorded usage with the maximum number
                  of federal workdays on which the courtrooms could have been used (250).

                  To examine the steps the judiciary has taken to evaluate space and
                  courtroom usage issues, we interviewed AOUSC officials and reviewed
                  pertinent documents and studies on courtroom use. Specifically, we
                  reviewed AOUSC documentation on initiatives to manage judicial space and
                  engaged an operations research consultant to assist us in evaluating an
                  AOUSC-commissioned study of the impact of providing fewer than one
                  courtroom per judgeship.7 Lastly, we reviewed documents prepared by the
                  Federal Judicial Center 8 and the Rand Institute for Civil Justice9 that
                  separately (1) examine various aspects of AOUSC’s impact study and
                  (2) make suggestions for further research on courtroom usage and
                  courtroom sharing.

                  We cannot project the results of our work to the universe of district
                  courtrooms nationwide, within the district where they were located, or to
                  the locations visited in other time periods. We did our work between
                  January 1996 and April 1997, in accordance with generally accepted
                  government auditing standards. Appendix I discusses our objectives,
                  scope, and methodology in greater detail.


                  According to the judiciary, courtroom availability is a key component in
Courtroom Usage   providing judges the flexibility to resolve cases more efficiently.
                  Nonetheless, trial courtrooms are expensive to construct, and any
                  unneeded courtrooms would waste taxpayer dollars. The extent to which
                  trial courtrooms are utilized for trial or nontrial activities is one indication
                  of need, but the judiciary does not compile data on how often and for what
                  purposes courtrooms are used or have analytically-based criteria for
                  determining effective courtroom utilization. Therefore, the judiciary does
                  not have sufficient data to support its practice of generally providing a
                  trial courtroom for every district judge. Our detailed work compiling data
                  at seven geographically dispersed locations—Dallas, TX; Miami, FL;


                  7
                   The Impact of Providing Fewer Than One Courtroom Per Judgeship: Report to the Committee on
                  Security, Space, and Facilities of the Judicial Conference of the United States; Edward H. Leekley and
                  William T. Rule II, Washington, D.C., March 1996.
                  8
                   Federal Judicial Center Research Note on The Impact of Providing Fewer Than One Courtroom Per
                  Judgeship, Federal Judicial Center, August 28, 1996.
                  9
                    Research on Courtroom Sharing, Project Memorandum, Terrence Dunworth and James S. Kakalik,
                  Rand Institute for Civil Justice, PM-598—1-ICJ, September 1996.



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                                              Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Las Cruces, NM; San Diego, CA; and
                                              Washington, D.C.—showed that courtroom usage for trials or nontrial
                                              activities varied by judge and location. Furthermore, on many of the
                                              workdays during 1995, courtrooms were not used at all for these purposes.

                                              Our analysis of use data for the 65 courtrooms we reviewed showed they
                                              were used for trials or nontrial activities an average of 54 percent of the
                                              workdays in 1995. Stated another way, they were not used for any of these
                                              recorded purposes 115 out of 250 possible days that year. Utilization rates
                                              varied widely from one location to another—the highest rate being
                                              61 percent and the lowest 43 percent. It was seldom that all courtrooms at
                                              any location were used for trial or nontrial activities on the same day.
                                              Specifically, at two locations—Miami and Washington, D.C.—there was
                                              not 1 day of the 250 workdays when all courtrooms were used; and at
                                              Dallas and San Diego, there was only 1 day when all the courtrooms were
                                              used. Table 1 shows the number of days in 1995 during which all
                                              courtrooms at each location were used on the same day.10 Appendixes II
                                              through VI provide greater detail on the use of courtrooms at each
                                              location.

Table 1: Number of Days All
Courtrooms at a Location Were Used                                                                                             Number of days all
for Trial or Nontrial Activities on the       Location                                 Number of courtrooms                     courtrooms used
Same Day in 1995 (250 Available               Albuquerque                                                         5                                    7
Workdays)
                                              Dallas                                                              8                                    1
                                              Las Cruces                                                          2                                   54
                                              Miami                                                              18                                    0
                                              San Diego                                                          12                                    1
                                              Washington, D.C.                                                   19                                    0
                                              Source: GAO analysis of data collected at six courthouse locations with more than one courtroom



                                              We also found differences in the extent to which courtrooms were used
                                              for trials and nontrial activities. For instance, our analysis showed that:

                                          •   Courtroom use for trial purposes varied by location, ranging from a low of
                                              13 percent in Santa Fe, NM, to a high of 32 percent in Miami. At all
                                              locations, courtrooms were used for trials less than one-third of the
                                              available days. On average, each courtroom included in our analysis was
                                              used for trials 27 percent of the time, or 69 days in 1995.


                                              10
                                                The seventh location that we visited, Santa Fe, has only one trial courtroom; therefore, we did not
                                              include it in our analysis of how often courtrooms at each location were used simultaneously.



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                                     •   Nontrial use—for activities such as motion hearings or arraignments—also
                                         varied by location, ranging from a low of 24 percent in Albuquerque to a
                                         high of 35 percent in Santa Fe. For the most part, on nontrial days, the
                                         courtrooms were used for 2 hours or less.
                                     •   Washington, D.C., courtrooms had the lowest incidence of no use for trials
                                         or nontrial activities at 39 percent; courtrooms in Las Cruces, NM, had the
                                         highest incidence of no use for trial or nontrial activities—57 percent.

                                         According to court officials, these differences occurred for a variety of
                                         reasons, including the differences in caseloads and the dynamics of each
                                         individual case. Table 2 shows the percentage of days courtrooms were
                                         used for trials and nontrial activities and the percentage of days with no
                                         use for these purposes for courtrooms in the seven locations visited.

Table 2: Percentage of Days
Courtrooms Were Not Used At All or       Location                                                 Trial use Nontrial use              No use
Were Used for Trials and Nontrial        Albuquerque      a
                                                                                                          20%              24%                 56%
Purposes at Seven Courthouse
                                         Dallas                                                           30               26                  44
Locations During 1995
                                                      a
                                         Las Cruces                                                       18               25                  57
                                         Miami                                                            32               25                  43
                                         San Diego                                                        25               34                  41
                                         Santa Fea                                                        13               35                  52
                                         Washington, D.C.                                                 27               34                  39
                                         Note 1: Dallas, Miami, and San Diego reflect some miscellaneous usage in the nontrial category
                                         by court personnel other than district judges.

                                         Note 2: If any time was recorded for the day, we considered the courtroom used for the entire
                                         day. Days when the courtroom was used for both trial and nontrial activities were recorded as trial
                                         days.
                                         a
                                          We developed courtroom usage information for these separate locations because the judges
                                         told us that many of them routinely use each other’s courtrooms. Appendix IV discusses our
                                         analysis of overall usage at all three locations combined and separately.

                                         Source: GAO analysis of data collected at seven courthouse locations



                                         As shown in table 2, courtrooms were used more often for nontrial
                                         purposes than they were for trials at all but two locations (Dallas and
                                         Miami). Furthermore, on most of the nontrial days, the courtrooms were
                                         used for 2 hours or less, which, in our view, raises a number of questions
                                         regarding the utilization of courtrooms. Some of these questions include:

                                     •   Could some nontrial activities be scheduled to more fully utilize individual
                                         courtrooms on any given day?




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                            •   Could some nontrial activities be carried out in smaller courtrooms,
                                hearing rooms, conference rooms, or chambers?
                            •   Would it be feasible for some nontrial activities to be carried out without a
                                courtroom by using video or audio technology?

                                We recognize that some trial and nontrial activities demand full-sized trial
                                courtrooms that accommodate one or several defendants and seat 12
                                jurors and 6 alternates. For example, our analysis of the total 1995 trial
                                time at the seven courthouses showed that 70 percent of the more than
                                4,000 trial days involved civil or criminal jury trials. On the other hand,
                                many of the courtrooms in the locations we visited were not used on many
                                of the available days in 1995, and the 30 percent of the remaining trial days
                                involved nonjury trials or contested proceedings that may not have had to
                                take place in a full-sized, jury box-equipped courtroom.


Courtroom Usage Varies by       At all locations we visited, most judges—both district and senior
Judge                           judges—used the courtrooms assigned to them for trials and nontrial
                                activities.11 The senior judges used courtrooms assigned to them
                                significantly less often than the district judges. Specifically, the senior
                                judges used the courtrooms 38 percent of all days in 1995, whereas the
                                district judges averaged a 65 percent usage rate. The difference in trial
                                days was also significant—senior judges averaged 17 percent for trial time
                                as compared to 33 percent for district judges. Court officials told us that
                                the lower senior judge usage rates occurred primarily because many
                                senior judges do not carry full caseloads or do not carry as many criminal
                                cases as the district judges. Table 3 compares courtroom usage for trial
                                and nontrial purposes and no use among the district and senior judges in
                                the seven courthouse locations.




                                11
                                  In Washington, D.C., most of the 22 judges had assigned courtrooms, but since there were only 19
                                trial courtrooms, 3 of the judges did not have assigned courtrooms. These three judges used one of the
                                other judges’ assigned courtrooms when it was vacant. In Santa Fe, NM, two judges shared one trial
                                courtroom; the other six judges, who sat in Albuquerque and Las Cruces, had assigned courtrooms.
                                However, these judges, as well as the ones in Santa Fe, routinely held court in courtrooms other than
                                those assigned to them.



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Table 3: Percentage of Days Courtrooms Were Not Used or Were Used for Trials and Nontrial Purposes by District and
Senior Judges at Six Courthouse Locations During 1995
                                           District judges                                  Senior judges
Location                         Trial use    Nontrial use              No use             Trial use       Nontrial use              No use
Dallasa                                33%                26%                 41%                N/A                 N/A                    N/A
     a
Miami                                  45                 28                  27                  25%                 20%                   55%
San Diegoa                             37                 34                  29                  17                  26                    57
              b
Albuquerque                            20                 27                  53                  13                    8                   79
Las Crucesb                            18                 22                  60                  18                  27                    55
                   c
Washington, D.C.                       33                 41                  26                  16                  22                    62
Overall averages                       33                 32                  35                  17                  21                    62
                                         N/A - not applicable because no senior judges used courtrooms.
                                         a
                                          Each district and senior judge in Dallas, Miami, and San Diego was assigned his/her own
                                         courtroom. These statistics measure district and senior judges’ usage of their assigned
                                         courtrooms in these locations.
                                         b
                                          The eight judges in New Mexico did not use their assigned courtrooms exclusively. Instead, they
                                         moved between the five courtrooms in Albuquerque, two in Las Cruces, and one in Santa Fe. For
                                         this table, we assumed that four of the courtrooms in Albuquerque were used predominantly by
                                         district judges and the other one by senior judges; and that one Las Cruces courtroom was used
                                         by district judges and the other courtroom was used by senior judges. Santa Fe was not included
                                         in this table because it had only one courtroom, which was shared by both district and senior
                                         judges.
                                         c
                                          There were 19 courtrooms in Washington, D.C. Twelve of these courtrooms were assigned to
                                         district judges and 7 were assigned to senior judges. During 1995, 22 district and senior judges
                                         used these courtrooms. These statistics show all district judge usage in the 12 courtrooms
                                         assigned to district judges and all senior judge usage at the 7 courtrooms assigned to them.

                                         Source: GAO analysis of data collected at six courthouse locations.



                                         We also found wide variances in how often individual district and senior
                                         judges at each location used their courtrooms. For example, although the
                                         41 district judges used their assigned courtrooms on average 65 percent of
                                         the workdays, individual judges’ utilization rates ranged from a low of
                                         32 percent to a high of 82 percent. Courtroom usage also varied widely for
                                         the 21 senior judges—the lowest rate was 16 percent and the highest was
                                         66 percent.

                                         Due to the absence of readily available criteria for measuring effective
                                         courtroom utilization and the limited scope of our review, we did not
                                         attempt to determine the number of courtrooms that are actually needed.
                                         However, our data suggest that there may be opportunities for the
                                         judiciary to reduce costs by building fewer trial courtrooms. Whether
                                         opportunities to reduce costs could be realized would depend on the



                                         Page 13                                                  GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
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                       potential impact or benefits and costs of other options, such as instituting
                       courtroom sharing practices; changing the configuration of courtrooms by
                       building a mix of full-size and smaller, less expensive courtrooms or
                       hearing rooms; or holding meetings or proceedings in facilities other than
                       trial courtrooms, possibly by using audio or video technology. In
                       commenting on a draft of this report, FJC noted that some federal courts
                       are now using two-way videoconferencing for some court proceedings. FJC
                       also said that federal trial judges have used the telephone for hearings or
                       motions and other matters for over 20 years.


                       Our discussions with district judges in the locations we visited indicated a
Judiciary’s Views on   courtroom for each judge is their preferred approach for ensuring the
Changes to Current     availability of a courtroom to try cases and conduct hearings as scheduled.
Usage Practices        The judges generally stated that having the courtroom available gives them
                       the flexibility to manage their own caseloads without having to worry
                       about scheduling conflicts. On the other hand, some of the judges we
                       spoke with acknowledged that courtroom sharing is feasible. In fact, some
                       judges told us they are currently sharing courtrooms.

                       The Chief Judge of the District of New Mexico is a proponent of
                       courtroom sharing. According to this judge, the district’s judges are
                       currently sharing courtrooms. In addition, the new courthouse under
                       construction in Albuquerque is to have fewer trial courtrooms than judges,
                       and none of the courtrooms are to be assigned to judges, including
                       magistrates. The Chief Judge told us that judges in his district can usually
                       find a courtroom when one is needed. He also said that he believes that
                       many of the proceedings that a judge does in a courtroom do not
                       necessarily need to be done in a full-sized trial courtroom. Our work
                       showed that in several locations, some judges held nontrial proceedings in
                       chambers or in courtrooms or hearing rooms smaller than the judiciary’s
                       standard trial-sized courtroom.

                       In Dallas, the four judges with whom we spoke told us they would prefer
                       to continue having their own courtrooms to assist them in resolving cases
                       more efficiently. However, they said that having fewer full-size trial
                       courtrooms than judges is workable. In their opinion, hearing rooms could
                       suffice for some criminal case functions as well as for nonjury trials and
                       motion hearings, if proper security were provided.

                       In Washington, D.C., three district judges did not have assigned
                       courtrooms for all months in 1995 because there were more judges than



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courtrooms. The judges with whom we spoke told us they would prefer
that each judge have an assigned courtroom to ensure more efficient case
management. According to the Chief Judge, courtroom sharing was
implemented out of necessity. Two of the judges who shared courtrooms
told us that even without assigned courtrooms, they always had access to
a courtroom when one was needed.

Judges at several locations also told us that courtroom sharing by senior
judges, especially those who do not carry full caseloads, would be easier
than district judges sharing courtrooms. For example, the Chief Judge in
San Diego said that courtroom sharing among senior judges could work. In
fact, she told us that the new courthouse annex will house chambers for
senior judges who will not have assigned courtrooms, but instead will
share courtrooms.

On the other hand, judges at several locations were opposed to district
judges sharing courtrooms. The Chief Judge in San Diego said that
courtroom sharing by district judges would be very difficult because of
their heavy caseloads. In this judge’s opinion, courtroom sharing by
district judges could decrease their case management efficiency because
the availability of a courtroom is a key factor in getting cases to settle
prior to trial. A district judge who shares a courtroom with a senior judge
in Santa Fe told us that in her opinion courtroom sharing may be a good
concept, but in her experience it makes case scheduling more difficult.
She further stated that courtroom sharing has required her to reschedule
hearings or conduct them in her chambers. Furthermore, in Miami, the
judges with whom we met were adamantly opposed to having fewer
courtrooms than judges. In their opinion, having fewer courtrooms than
judges would create a host of scheduling problems resulting in delays and
higher litigation costs for all parties.

If the judiciary were to adopt some form of courtroom sharing, it may need
fewer trial courtrooms than the number of judges, provided that judges
could still effectively discharge their judicial responsibilities. Relatedly, a
mix of full-sized and smaller, less expensive courtrooms could be built if it
is feasible to conduct nontrial activities in courtrooms smaller than, and
perhaps configured differently from, the standard trial-sized courtroom.
Some of these nontrial activities might be candidates for hearing rooms,
conference rooms, or chambers; or, if feasible, they could be held in
multiple locations using video and audio conferencing technology, thereby
eliminating the need for fully equipped courtrooms.




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AOUSC believes that it would be premature to change the practice of one
courtroom per judge or to build courtrooms smaller than the standard
trial-sized courtroom solely on the basis of actual courtroom utilization
data. It maintains that the courtroom is a tool the judge uses to bring cases
to resolution, and unimpeded availability of a courtroom is critical to
ensuring that justice be dispensed and cases resolved in a timely manner.
According to AOUSC, one important element of the one judge, one
courtroom practice is “latent” use whereby a judge is able to use an
available courtroom and the scheduling of that courtroom as leverage to
encourage a case to settle without going to trial. AOUSC officials also
believe that when a case settles at the last minute—the day before or the
day of the scheduled trial—a judge often cannot immediately reschedule
another case. AOUSC and the courts we visited were unable to provide data
on how often this occurs.

According to AOUSC, another important element is the dynamic nature of
the justice system. An AOUSC official said that judges cannot be certain
when, or even if, a specific case will go to trial or how long the trial will
take to complete; they cannot anticipate the filing of motions that must be
dealt with expeditiously; nor can the judges predict when criminal
defendants will be arrested and arraigned. Therefore, to effectively deal
with all of these situations, AOUSC believes that judges must have
courtrooms available, and the best way to ensure that courtrooms are
available is for each judge to have a courtroom. In commenting on a draft
of this report, AOUSC cited as additional evidence that a recent survey had
been issued showing that state courts also have policies of providing one
courtroom for each judge.12

The judiciary has not developed data to substantiate the degree to which
these factors affect the number of courtrooms needed. Thus, neither we
nor others are able to quantify how scheduling issues or the dynamic
nature of the justice system might affect the number of courtrooms
needed. For example, we were unable to determine how often the
availability of a courtroom causes civil litigants to settle or criminal
defendants and U.S. Attorneys to plea bargain before trial. Judges and
other court officials with whom we spoke told us that many cases settle
prior to trial after a firm trial date is set. Therefore, some judges schedule
more than one case for trial on the same day with the expectation that all
cases will not go to trial. In fact, an AOUSC study13 showed that most cases

12
 Dan Hardenbergh, “Courtroom Sharing Practices Among State and Local Trial Courts,” September 13,
1996.
13
  Leekley and Rule, op. cit.



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                      filed in federal district courts in 1994 settled prior to trial—only
                      3.5 percent of all civil filings reached trial, and only 7.5 percent of criminal
                      filings went to trial.

                      Our work was designed to examine actual courtroom usage at the
                      locations we visited. We recognize that other factors are important
                      considerations in determining the need for courtrooms. Information on
                      usage as well as other relevant factors can only enrich the courtroom
                      usage analysis and provide a better context for discussing actions needed
                      and identifying opportunities to achieve overall efficiencies.


                      The judiciary is aware of growing concerns about the cost and use of
Judiciary Has Taken   courtrooms and has made some attempts to measure and examine
Some Steps to         courtroom use and its related policy issues. It views these efforts as a
Examine Courtroom     starting point in resolving the debate over the number of courtrooms
                      needed and the practice of providing one courtroom for each judge. For
Use                   instance, until recently, neither GSA nor the judiciary had readily available
                      data on the total number of federal courtrooms in buildings nationwide.
                      During the middle part of 1996, AOUSC began surveying courts to not only
                      determine the number of courtrooms, but also to obtain information about
                      those courtrooms, such as jury box capacity and the general functionality
                      of the space. AOUSC is currently verifying the information from this survey
                      and plans to use it to analyze space rental costs and compare and contrast
                      the amount of space occupied by the courts. In commenting on this report,
                      AOUSC pointed out that the judiciary has efforts under way to improve
                      space management, control rent costs, improve facility use, and examine
                      the need for facilities with no permanently assigned judge.

                      The judiciary has also started an effort to explore a courtroom sharing
                      policy. In March 1996, the Judicial Conference directed its Court
                      Administration and Case Management Committee and the Bankruptcy,
                      Magistrate Judges, and Judicial Branch Committees to address the concept
                      of courtroom sharing and its implications for case management and
                      administration. According to AOUSC, the Committees are to examine
                      courtroom sharing for district and senior judges and determine whether
                      sharing would delay or otherwise adversely affect case processing. As part
                      of this effort, each judicial council was encouraged to submit a position on
                      courtroom sharing. Furthermore, the Subcommittee on Space
                      Management Initiatives developed a survey instrument that was sent to all
                      chief judges to solicit input on courtroom sharing, and a consultant was
                      retained to survey state and local sharing practices. In commenting on a



                      Page 17                                       GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
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    draft of this report, AOUSC said that the Judicial Conference adopted a
    policy related to courtroom utilization during its March 1997 session. The
    policy retains the practice of providing one courtroom for each district
    judge, and it encourages each judicial council14 to examine opportunities
    for senior and visiting judges to share courtrooms. The policy, which was
    incorporated in the United States Courts Design Guide, recognizes several
    factors, such as the anticipated number and types of cases and the number
    of years judges are likely to be located at a facility, that should be used to
    evaluate whether courtroom sharing opportunities exist.

    One important aspect of the judiciary’s efforts is focused on an assessment
    of the impact of changing the ratio of courtrooms to judges. In March 1996,
    AOUSC released a report on the impact of providing fewer than one
    courtroom per judgeship,15 which examined some of the potential
    operational issues associated with providing fewer than one courtroom
    per judgeship. The report used case studies and the data provided by the
    courts and the judiciary to test the applicability of mathematical models
    for predicting the impact of fewer courtrooms than judges. Among other
    things, the study said that (1) case delays would increase when district
    judges are provided fewer than one trial courtroom each, and (2) the cost
    savings resulting from not building and maintaining a new courtroom must
    be weighed against staff costs resulting from the additional scheduling
    workload and the cost to litigants for delays imposed by additional
    congestion. The report recommended that the judiciary and GSA

•   continue to build one courtroom for every district judgeship;
•   consider the direct court construction costs and the indirect costs to
    litigants in determining the number of courtrooms to be built in new
    courthouses; and
•   consider building more courtrooms than there are judges to avoid the
    greater costs of subsequently adding additional courtrooms for new
    judgeships.

    In June 1996, the Judicial Conference’s Committee on Court
    Administration and Case Management asked the Federal Judicial Center
    (FJC), the education and research arm of the judiciary, to review the
    March 1996 report. In August 1996, FJC issued a detailed critique that
    focused on many of the technical and nontechnical aspects of the AOUSC


    14
      Circuit judicial councils consist of the chief judge of each circuit and an equal number of appellate
    and district judges. The councils manage caseloads and carry out related administrative
    responsibilities.
    15
      Leekley and Rule, op. cit.



    Page 18                                                     GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
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report. FJC praised the March 1996 report for pointing out some of the
limits of current data and the complexities of dealing with matters like
courtroom scheduling, but it reported that the “limitations of the analysis,
some of which are acknowledged in the report, substantially limit its value
as a basis for any policy decision.” FJC went on to discuss the major
limitations that led it to caution against relying on the recommendations.
For instance, FJC found that the quantitative analyses used were not as
sophisticated as they could have been, and other more useful techniques
might have been developed; the objectives of the study were unclear, and
the findings and recommendations went beyond the data presented; and
the conclusions and their corresponding recommendations failed to
consider alternatives other than fully equipped courtrooms or chambers
where nontrial proceedings could be held.

The Rand Institute for Civil Justice also expressed similar concerns about
the March 1996 AOUSC report. In September 1996, the Institute issued a
project memorandum entitled Research on Courtroom Sharing. The
memorandum, prepared under contract for AOUSC, was designed to review
the most important research on courtroom sharing and determine whether
additional research was needed. The Institute found that prior research is
limited and does not resolve the one courtroom-per-judge issue. In fact,
only one of five studies discovered during Rand’s research—the
March 1996 report—had a federal court focus, and none “satisfactorily
resolve the courtroom-per-judge issue and do not offer a solid empirical or
theoretical basis for federal court facilities decisionmaking.”

Like FJC, the Institute also critiqued various aspects of the March 1996
report. For example, the Institute questioned whether the report fully
explored some of the analytical techniques available and suggested that
the techniques employed might have been more fruitful had they been
further explored or more detailed data incorporated. In another instance,
the Institute expressed concern about a key assumption made in the
report—specifically, that additional staff, a full-time scheduler, would be
needed to manage courtroom scheduling if judges were required to share
fewer courtrooms. In its critique, the Institute stated that it could not
assert with confidence that no additional staff would be needed but found
it difficult to accept the assumption. Furthermore, the Institute pointed out
that even if a scheduler were needed, fewer courtrooms might reduce the
need for other personnel, such as courtroom deputy clerks or security
personnel.




Page 19                                    GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
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Research Groups      The growing debate over courtroom use and construction costs, coupled
Emphasize Need for   with the limitations of available research on courtroom usage and sharing
Additional Study     issues, has prompted both FJC and Rand to suggest further study on
                     courtroom utilization and related operational issues. For example, FJC
                     noted that “it seems likely the judicial branch can expect the current
                     pressure for economy, efficiency, and effectiveness to continue and quite
                     probably to intensify” and that “expenditures for features beyond the most
                     Spartan will have to be defended with hard data.” Furthermore, FJC
                     proposed major changes to the judiciary’s regular data collection “so that
                     the elements, dynamics, and effects of court operations can be
                     substantively reported without assembling an ad hoc study each time a
                     specific aspect of the system is questioned and singled out for scrutiny.”
                     FJC went on to suggest that there may be more to be learned by exploring a
                     more sophisticated use of the analytical techniques than those used in the
                     March 1996 study. In addition, FJC proposed two other possible
                     research-based approaches for further examining this and other policy
                     issues facing the judiciary.

                     First, FJC suggested that the judiciary do short-term research to address
                     the effect of abandoning the practice of assigning a full-time, fully
                     equipped courtroom for each district judge. As part of this research, 10 to
                     15 courts would be asked to continue to manage actual operations in
                     existing facilities, but they would establish a staff to simulate operations
                     as if there were fewer courtrooms than those available. The simulation
                     would then allow judges and staff to deal with scheduling issues and their
                     resolution and collect data and information on such things as the type of
                     activities planned by judges, scheduling and other problems that arise
                     under realistic conditions, and solutions to problems caused by fewer
                     courtrooms. In FJC’s view, such an approach would help the judiciary
                     (1) formulate criteria for allocating facilities for various situations and
                     circumstances; (2) build a database about the scheduling and proceedings;
                     and (3) show a good faith effort to develop tools to cope with resource
                     reduction or, if no tools are available, help justify the one judge, one
                     courtroom policy.

                     Second, FJC suggested a longer term commitment to improvements in the
                     judiciary’s data collection systems so that it could more fully describe the
                     activities of the courts. In FJC’s view, such an effort would anticipate the
                     types of information needed to build a database that could respond to
                     various questions and future scenarios, ranging from the types of activities
                     that need to be held in a courtroom to the features of a case or proceeding
                     that make a courtroom environment essential.



                     Page 20                                    GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
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                  As mentioned earlier, Rand’s Institute for Civil Justice also emphasized the
                  importance of further study on courtroom utilization issues. Specifically,
                  the Institute stressed the need for the judiciary to understand the effects of
                  courtroom sharing on the judicial system when making facility decisions
                  and concluded that:

                  “Making decisions without such an understanding presents two kinds of risks. On the one
                  hand, reducing the courtroom-per-judge ratio may unacceptably impair the ability of the
                  federal court system to meet its judicial obligations and may have other potentially
                  negative effects. On the other hand, not reducing the ratio may forego an opportunity to
                  save taxpayer dollars.”


                  The Institute suggested that the judiciary, Congress, AOUSC, and GSA would
                  be well served by a methodologically sound empirical study that would
                  require investigating the effects of varying the courtroom-to-judge ratio.
                  Furthermore, the Institute proposed a research process that would

              •   examine existing courtroom sharing systems and data, including data on
                  the number and adequacy of courtrooms from AOUSC’s recent space
                  inventory; information on courtroom and event scheduling; actual usage
                  data from JS-10 reports, real time observation, and other supplemental
                  data sources; and information on intangible factors, such as latent
                  usage—and develop a research design;
              •   use a sample of district courts to collect new data and develop analytical
                  methods and research findings based on the results of stage 1, including,
                  again, information on actual courtroom utilization as well as information
                  on case management, budgets and expenditures, and practitioner views on
                  the latent affects of courtroom availability; and
              •   incorporate and operationalize the results of data collection and analysis
                  into AOUSC’s facility planning process to extend the results to other
                  districts and judges, and revise and update the analysis as necessary.

                  The Institute also offered suggestions for selecting districts to study as
                  well as requirements for data to collect and reviewed various analytical
                  methods.


                  The judiciary’s process for administering justice is complex and dynamic,
Conclusions       and courtrooms are an integral part of making it work. Nonetheless, trial
                  courtrooms are expensive to build, and unneeded courtrooms would
                  result in wasted taxpayer dollars. The extent to which courtrooms are
                  utilized is one indication of need, but the judiciary does not compile data




                  Page 21                                            GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
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                  on how often and for what purposes courtrooms are actually used for
                  trials or nontrial activities or have analytically-based criteria for
                  determining effective courtroom utilization. Furthermore, it has only
                  recently begun to collect information on the total number of courtrooms in
                  the federal judicial system and consider the possible impacts of providing
                  fewer than one trial courtroom per judge. Therefore, the judiciary does not
                  have sufficient data to support its practice of providing one trial
                  courtroom for every district judge or for projecting how many new
                  courtrooms should be built.

                  Our analyses of actual courtroom usage for trials and nontrial activities at
                  seven courthouse locations suggests there may be opportunities to reduce
                  costs by building fewer full-sized trial courtrooms in the judiciary’s
                  multibillion-dollar courthouse construction initiative. In 1995, courtrooms
                  at the locations we visited were, on average, not used for trials or nontrial
                  activities about one-half of the days they were available, and they were
                  used for trials—a major factor in determining the size, configuration, and
                  overall cost of district courtrooms—less than one-third of the days. It is
                  also important to recognize that on most nontrial days, the courtrooms
                  were used for 2 hours or less and that senior judges’ usage, on average,
                  was substantially less than district judges’ usage. Whether opportunities to
                  reduce costs could be realized would depend on the need for the one
                  judge, one courtroom practice and the potential impact or benefits and
                  costs of other options.

                  Other factors, such as latent use and scheduling issues, are important
                  considerations in determining the need for courtrooms. However, the
                  judiciary has not developed data to substantiate the degree to which these
                  factors affect the number of courtrooms needed. The judiciary recognizes
                  that the courtroom usage issue needs to be examined in more depth and
                  has made initial efforts to explore the issue. However, one of these
                  efforts—a study commissioned by AOUSC—was found to have major
                  limitations by FJC and the Rand Institute for Civil Justice. Both FJC and
                  Rand believe that more research is needed to adequately address the
                  courtroom usage issue, and each had a number of ideas to get the process
                  started.


                  We recommend that the Director, AOUSC; the Director, FJC; and the Judicial
Recommendations   Conference’s committees on (1) Court Administration and Case
                  Management and (2) Security, Space and Facilities design and implement
                  cost-effective research to fully examine the courtroom usage issue to form



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                          a better basis for determining the number and type of courtrooms needed,
                          as well as whether each district judge needs a dedicated courtroom. This
                          effort should include:

                      •   establishing criteria for determining effective courtroom utilization and a
                          mechanism for collecting and analyzing data at a representative number of
                          locations so that trends can be identified over time and better insights
                          obtained on court activity and courtroom usage;
                      •   designing and implementing a methodology for capturing and analyzing
                          data on latent usage, courtroom scheduling, and other factors that may
                          substantially affect the relationship between the availability of courtrooms
                          and judges’ ability to effectively administer justice;
                      •   using these data and criteria to explore whether the one judge, one
                          courtroom practice is needed to promote efficient courtroom management
                          or whether other courtroom assignment alternatives exist; and
                      •   establishing an action plan with time frames for implementing and
                          overseeing these efforts.


                          On April 7, 1997, AOUSC and FJC provided us with their written comments
Agency Comments           on a draft of this report and on a related correspondence on courtroom
and Our Evaluation        usage at four selected locations16 (see apps. VII and VIII). GSA’s Public
                          Buildings Service provided written comments on April 11, 1997 (see app.
                          IX). An overall description of the comments and our evaluation are
                          discussed below. Additional evaluations of some AOUSC and FJC comments
                          are contained in apps. VII and VIII. AOUSC and FJC also provided several
                          technical comments under separate cover that we considered in finalizing
                          the report.


Comments From AOUSC       AOUSC said that it shared our interest in conserving the judiciary’s
                          resources and that the judiciary is aggressively exploring opportunities to
                          save taxpayer dollars by examining and evaluating space needs. For
                          example, it said that the Judicial Conference of the United States—the
                          policymaking body of the judiciary—recently adopted a new policy related
                          to courtroom utilization. This policy continues the practice of assigning
                          each active district judge a courtroom, but it encourages circuit judicial
                          councils to examine opportunities for senior and visiting judges to share
                          courtrooms and to develop a policy on sharing courtrooms by senior
                          judges. It cites several factors that should be considered when assessing

                          16
                           COURTHOUSE CONSTRUCTION: Information on the Use of District Courtrooms at Selected
                          Locations (GAO/GGD-97-59R, May 19, 1997).



                          Page 23                                            GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
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sharing opportunities, such as the anticipated number and type of cases
expected and the number of years judges are likely to be located at a
facility.

Given this initiative and the judiciary’s continuing facilities planning
efforts to reduce overall space costs, such as controlling rent costs and
closing nonresident facilities, AOUSC requested that we recast our
recommendation. Instead of recommending what it thought could be a
time-consuming and expensive study of the courtroom usage issue, AOUSC
requested that we recommend that the Judicial Conference committees on
Court Administration and Case Management and Security, Space, and
Facilities monitor the implementation of the Judicial Conference’s recent
policy initiatives on courtroom sharing and other facilities planning
activities and their impact on case management and effectiveness in
reducing costs.

We chose not to recast our recommendation as AOUSC requested. We agree
that the Judicial Conference committees mentioned above should be
involved in any research on courtroom usage, and their involvement was
meant to be implicit in our recommendation. To clarify this point, we have
changed the recommendation to specifically include these committees. We
also agree that the judiciary should monitor the implementation of the
Judicial Conference’s policy initiatives and consider any outcomes as part
of its overall evaluation of how to use courthouse facilities most
efficiently. However, just monitoring these initiatives would be an
incomplete basis for making courtroom construction decisions because it
would not include information and analysis on actual courtroom usage.
Without such information and analysis, there will continue to be questions
about how many full-sized trial courtrooms are really needed. Accordingly,
we continue to believe that further study of courtroom usage is warranted.

AOUSC also said that it appreciated our understanding that the process for
administering justice is complex and dynamic but that a simple counting
of the time a courtroom is actually occupied over a short period cannot be
the measure for the number of courtrooms needed at a facility. AOUSC
acknowledged the draft report’s recognition that scheduled and latent uses
of courtrooms are important considerations in determining the number of
courtrooms needed. AOUSC added that the courtroom occupancy rate of
65 percent by active district judges cited in the report is only a fraction of
the real use of the courtroom, given that these latent use factors were not
part of the study. AOUSC also highlighted the scope limitations set forth in
our objectives, scope, and methodology section and reiterated that such



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limitations would not allow a determination of the number of courtrooms
needed.

We agree with AOUSC that the process for administering justice is complex
and dynamic and that a measurement of actual courtroom usage would
not, by itself, be a sufficient basis for determining the number of
courtrooms in a facility. We also agree that scheduled and latent use are
important components that should be considered when analyzing
courtroom usage. However, as discussed in the report, the judiciary lacks
information on how significant an impact these factors have on courtroom
usage rates and how many courtrooms are actually needed. In the absence
of such information, there is no way to determine whether AOUSC’s
observation that if scheduled and latent use were included, the 65 percent
average usage rate for active district judges would be much higher is
correct. As mentioned in our report, individual active judges’ courtroom
utilization rates at the locations we visited ranged from a low of 32 percent
to a high of 82 percent—showing that individual usage patterns vary
significantly. Furthermore, on most of the days active district judges used
their courtrooms for nontrial activities only, the courtrooms were used for
two hours or less.

Although our available resources only allowed us to examine courtroom
usage at a limited number of locations, our work provides insight into how
often and for what purpose these courtrooms were actually used, which is
more information than the judiciary previously had. Further, each location
we visited, with the exception of one, is under consideration for project
funding, according to the judiciary’s March 1996 5-year plan for
courthouse construction. Data on usage patterns like we developed could
aid in planning, designing, and constructing each of these facilities. We
recognize that more study is needed to adequately address the courtroom
usage question and this recognition helped form the basis for our
conclusions and recommendations.

Finally, AOUSC stated that it hoped we understood the consequences of
providing Congress and the public with information that could lead to
unintended and erroneous conclusions. In doing so, AOUSC characterized
our data as “selectively edited.” While it is always possible that someone
will draw “unintended and erroneous” conclusions from any data we
present, we disagree strongly with such a characterization of our data. Our
report clearly describes the data we collected and identifies other relevant
factors such as latent use for which data were not available. We also
clearly state the limitations of our methodology and acknowledge that



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                    additional data and analysis would be needed to determine the number of
                    courtrooms needed. Our recommendation addresses what we believe
                    needs to be done to conduct a comprehensive study. At no time during this
                    work were any data “edited” in or out of our analysis.


Comments From FJC   Many of FJC’s comments were similar to those from AOUSC. To reduce
                    redundancy, we are not replying separately but note those references in
                    app. VIII. In general, FJC acknowledged the report’s recognition that
                    courtroom use policy is a complex matter involving many variables, not all
                    of which are subject to easy measurement. FJC also stated that it is willing
                    and able to design research and examine the courtroom usage issue as we
                    recommended if requested to do so from within the judiciary. It said that
                    such research should be done in cooperation with the Judicial Conference
                    and its committees. We agree and have modified the recommendation
                    accordingly.


Comments From GSA   GSA provided updated figures on the universe of 200 locations the judiciary
                    identified as needing new projects. GSA reported that of the original 200
                    locations, GSA and the judiciary have now determined that 160 locations
                    require new construction. In the remaining locations, expansion of the
                    courts’ housing is no longer needed or will be satisfied through leasing
                    actions or building modernizations. Of the 160 locations, 40 projects have
                    received approximately $3 billion in funding. The remaining 120 projects
                    will require an estimated $5 billion. GSA pointed out that most of the larger
                    projects are already well into the design and construction process. GSA
                    said that in general, the remaining projects will be smaller courthouses
                    and will offer less flexibility for sharing courtrooms.

                    We recognize that several larger projects are well under way and in some
                    cases completed. Thus, the judiciary may have missed opportunities to
                    reduce costs by exploring different courtroom sizes and courtroom
                    sharing. We do not see the basis for GSA’s comment that there is less
                    flexibility to share courtrooms in the remaining smaller projects. First, as
                    outlined in this report, the judiciary does not compile data on how often
                    and for what purposes courtrooms are actually used or have criteria for
                    determining how many and what types of courtrooms are needed to
                    effectively administer justice. GSA’s statement that sharing opportunities
                    may be limited at remaining locations is therefore not based on any
                    analysis of usage patterns. In fact, our work at smaller courthouses, such
                    as Albuquerque, showed some of the lower usage patterns. Second, several



                    Page 26                                     GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
B-271180




projects that remain are large. The judiciary’s March 1996 5-year plan for
courthouse construction identifies eight projects that are estimated to cost
more than $100 million each. According to an AOUSC official, another
project not in the plan—Los Angeles—could cost over $200 million. We
issued a separate report in December 1996 on the judiciary’s 5-year plan.17


We are sending copies of this report to the Chairman, Judicial Conference
Committee on Security, Space, and Facilities; Director, Administrative
Office of the U.S. Courts; Administrator of GSA; Director, Office of
Management and Budget; and other interested congressional committees.
The major contributors to this report are listed in appendix VII. If you have
any questions, please contact me on (202) 512-8387.

Sincerely yours




Bernard L. Ungar
Director, Government Business
  Operations Issues




17
 COURTHOUSE CONSTRUCTION: Improved 5-Year Plan Could Promote More Informed
Decisionmaking (GAO/GGD-97-27, Dec. 31, 1996).



Page 27                                         GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
Contents



Letter                                                                                         1


Appendix I                                                                                    32

Objectives, Scope,
and Methodology
Appendix II                                                                                   42
                        Background                                                            42
District Courtroom      Overall Courtroom Usage                                               42
Use in Dallas, Texas    Courtroom Usage by District Judges                                    43
                        Courtroom Sharing                                                     44

Appendix III                                                                                  45
                        Background                                                            45
District Courtroom      Overall Courtroom Usage                                               46
Use in Miami, Florida   Courtroom Usage by District Judges                                    47
                        Courtroom Usage by Senior Judges                                      48
                        Courtroom Sharing                                                     49

Appendix IV                                                                                   51
                        Background                                                            51
District Courtroom      Courtroom Usage                                                       51
Use in Albuquerque,     Courtroom Sharing                                                     54
Las Cruces, and Santa
Fe, New Mexico
Appendix V                                                                                    55
                        Background                                                            55
District Courtroom      Overall Courtroom Usage                                               55
Use in San Diego,       Courtroom Usage by District Judges                                    56
                        Courtroom Usage by Senior Judges                                      57
California              Courtroom Sharing                                                     58




                        Page 28                              GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
                        Contents




Appendix VI                                                                                      60
                        Background                                                               60
District Courtroom      Overall Courtroom Usage                                                  60
Use in Washington,      Courtroom Usage by District Judges                                       61
                        Courtroom Usage by Senior Judges                                         62
D.C.                    Courtroom Sharing                                                        63

Appendix VII                                                                                     65
                        GAO Comments                                                             82
Comments From the
Administrative Office
of the United States
Courts
Appendix VIII                                                                                    88
                        GAO Comments                                                             94
Comments From the
Federal Judicial
Center
Appendix IX                                                                                      96

Comments From the
General Services
Administration
Appendix X                                                                                       98

Major Contributors to
This Report
Tables                  Table 1: Number of Days All Courtrooms at a Location Were Used           10
                          for Trial or Nontrial Activities on the Same Day in 1995
                        Table 2: Percentage of Days Courtrooms Were Not Used At All or           11
                          Were Used for Trials and Nontrial Purposes at Seven Courthouse
                          Locations During 1995
                        Table 3: Percentage of Days Courtrooms Were Not Used or Were             13
                          Used for Trials and Nontrial Purposes by District and Senior
                          Judges at Six Courthouse Locations During 1995




                        Page 29                                 GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
          Contents




Figures   Figure 1: Percent of Days Courtrooms Were Used                               3
          Figure I.1: Sample JS-10 Form                                               35
          Figure I.2: Sample JS-10A Form                                              37
          Figure II.1: Overall Usage of Eight District Courtrooms in Dallas,          43
            TX, in 1995
          Figure II.2: Use of Seven Courtrooms by District Judges in Dallas,          44
            TX, in 1995
          Figure III.1: Overall Usage of 18 District Courtrooms in Miami,             47
            FL, in 1995
          Figure III.2: Use of Nine Courtrooms by District Judges in Miami,           48
            FL, in 1995
          Figure III.3: Use of Five Courtrooms by Senior Judges in Miami,             49
            FL, in 1995
          Figure IV.1: Overall Usage of Eight District Courtrooms in New              52
            Mexico in 1995
          Figure V.1: Overall Usage of 12 District Courtrooms in San Diego,           56
            CA, in 1995
          Figure V.2: Use of Six Courtrooms by District Judges in San                 57
            Diego, CA, in 1995
          Figure V.3: Use of Five Courtrooms by Senior Judges in San                  58
            Diego, CA, in 1995
          Figure VI.1: Overall Usage of 19 District Courtrooms in                     61
            Washington, D.C., in 1995
          Figure VI.2: Use of Courtrooms by District Judges in Washington,            62
            D.C., in 1995
          Figure VI.3: Use of Courtrooms by Senior Judges in Washington,              63
            D.C., in 1995




          Abbreviations

          AOUSC      Administrative Office of the United States Courts
          FJC        Federal Judicial Center
          GSA        General Services Administration


          Page 30                                    GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
Page 31   GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
Appendix I

Objectives, Scope, and Methodology


                 Our objectives were to (1) determine how often and for what purposes
                 district trial courtrooms were used and (2) examine what steps the
                 judiciary is taking to assess space and courtroom usage issues. We did our
                 work at the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AOUSC) and the
                 General Services Administration (GSA) and at 7 courthouses located in 5 of
                 the 94 federal judicial districts—Dallas, TX, in the Northern District of
                 Texas; Miami, FL, in the Southern District of Florida; San Diego, CA, in the
                 Southern District of California; Washington, D.C., in the District of the
                 District of Columbia; and Albuquerque, Las Cruces, and Santa Fe, NM, in
                 the District of New Mexico. These 7 locations encompassed 65 district trial
                 courtrooms.

                 To meet our first objective, we met with AOUSC and GSA officials to discuss
                 the judiciary’s practice of providing a trial courtroom for each district
                 judge, the number of courtrooms nationwide, and the availability of data
                 on courtroom usage. From these meetings, we learned that (1) AOUSC
                 does not maintain systematic data on courtroom usage for any location,
                 (2) neither AOUSC nor GSA maintains an inventory of district courtrooms by
                 location or courthouse, and (3) each court and each judge tends to manage
                 cases and courtrooms differently. As a result, we had to analyze usage at
                 individual courthouses. Many variables, such as judgeship vacancies or
                 senior judge workload, could have been used to select courthouse
                 locations. However, we judgmentally selected the seven courthouse
                 locations considering the availability of staff and travel costs; geographic
                 dispersion; and courthouse size (small, medium, and large). First, we
                 selected the Dallas courthouse because it gave us the opportunity to
                 explore the availability of courtroom usage data, develop data collection
                 techniques, and learn about the various aspects of courtroom usage issues
                 at a single, small-sized facility (eight courtrooms and seven judges).

                 Once we completed our work in Dallas, we selected Miami; San Diego;
                 Washington, D.C.; and Albuquerque for detailed review because each had a
                 new courthouse construction project that was either planned or under
                 way. While making our selections, we took into account the following:

             •   Miami was considered a large courthouse with 18 trial courtrooms and 14
                 judges located in 3 separate buildings. According to the judiciary’s 5-year
                 plan, Miami is slated for $26 million in site and design funding in fiscal
                 year 1998 and $91.4 million in construction funding in fiscal year 2000.
             •   San Diego was considered a medium-sized courthouse with 12 trial
                 courtrooms and 11 judges. According to the judiciary’s 5 year courthouse
                 construction plan, San Diego is scheduled for $18.2 million in site funding



                 Page 32                                    GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
    Appendix I
    Objectives, Scope, and Methodology




    in fiscal year 1998, $5.2 million in design funding in 2000, and $91.2 million
    in construction funding in fiscal year 2001.
•   Washington, D.C., was considered a large courthouse with 19 trial
    courtrooms and 22 judges. The judiciary’s construction plan lists
    Washington with $5.7 million in design funding for fiscal year 1998 and
    $98.2 million for construction funding in fiscal year 1999.
•   Albuquerque was considered a small courthouse since it had five
    courtrooms and five judges. A new courthouse with an expected total
    project cost of over $50 million is currently under construction.

    We also selected Albuquerque because, during our interviews with GSA, we
    learned that the judges in Albuquerque plan to share courtrooms once the
    new courthouse is completed. After we started our fieldwork in
    Albuquerque, we learned that two judges sitting in Santa Fe share one
    courtroom and that many of the judges in the District of New Mexico
    customarily conduct trials and nontrial hearings not only in the
    courtrooms in Albuquerque, but also in the courtroom in Santa Fe and the
    two courtrooms in Las Cruces.1 Therefore, we decided to include these
    courthouses in our study.

    At all seven courthouse locations, we toured trial courtrooms and
    discussed courtroom usage with judges, District Clerks, and other court
    officials involved in scheduling and managing the use of the courtrooms.
    Specifically, we discussed how judges schedule cases and use their
    courtrooms, the importance of having a courtroom available when one is
    needed, and the possibility of district judges sharing trial courtrooms. We
    learned that the individual courts also do not compile statistical data
    specifically on how often courtrooms are used or for what purposes. Thus,
    we had to compile and analyze data from numerous sources. Due to time
    constraints and the volume of information and records at each location,
    we decided to limit the scope of our detailed review to calendar year 1995.

    In doing our detailed audit work, we first reviewed Monthly Reports of
    Trials and Other Court Activity (JS-10) compiled by the courts for 1995
    pertaining to all district and senior judges assigned to the locations we
    visited and Monthly Reports of Visiting Judge Activity (JS-10A) compiled
    for 1995 pertaining to all visiting judges who heard cases at these
    locations. The JS-10 is supposed to be used to report trials and nontrial



    1
     According to the judiciary’s 5 year construction plan, Las Cruces is also slated for a new courthouse
    project. This project is scheduled to receive $3.5 million in site and design funds in fiscal year 1999 and
    $20 million in construction funds in 2001.



    Page 33                                                      GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
Appendix I
Objectives, Scope, and Methodology




proceedings2 conducted by individual district or senior judges on a
monthly basis. The judiciary requires a JS-10 report for each active district
judge each month even if the judge did not have any trials or proceedings
that particular month. A JS-10 is also required for any senior judge during
each month that the judge had court activity. Likewise, the JS-10A is
supposed to be used to report the court time of visiting judges who are
temporarily assigned to a court and is supposed to be completed by the
court receiving the services. Figures I.1 and I.2 are samples of the JS-10
and the JS-10A forms, respectively.




2
According to the AOUSC, trials are defined as any contested proceeding. Nontrial activities include
motion hearings, arraignments, and other proceedings.



Page 34                                                   GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
                                Appendix I
                                Objectives, Scope, and Methodology




Figure I.1: Sample JS-10 Form




                                Page 35                              GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
Appendix I
Objectives, Scope, and Methodology




Source: Statistics Manual, Vol. I - Administrative Office of the United States Courts.



Page 36                                                    GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
                                 Appendix I
                                 Objectives, Scope, and Methodology




Figure I.2: Sample JS-10A Form




                                 Page 37                              GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
Appendix I
Objectives, Scope, and Methodology




Source: Statistics Manual, Vol. I - Administrative Office of the United States Courts.



Page 38                                                    GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
Appendix I
Objectives, Scope, and Methodology




According to AOUSC, the JS-10 was not designed to provide information on
how often courtrooms are used. AOUSC officials said the JS-10 was
designed to provide information on (1) the number and length of trials
conducted in district courts and (2) the amount of time judges spend on
other court activities in which both sides of the controversy were
involved. AOUSC officials acknowledge that the JS-10 might allow for an
approximation of courtroom use data in some courts, but it does not
provide a satisfactory substitute for actual data on courtroom usage. They
contend that much of the time courtrooms are in use does not appear on
the JS-10 because it does not capture such things as use by other types of
judges and time when the courtroom must be available to enforce trial
schedules or foster settlement of litigation.

Court officials at all locations we visited told us that (1) active district and
senior district judges are the primary users of the trial courtrooms and
(2) the JS-10 is the best source for determining how often and for what
purposes the judges used their courtrooms. From page 1 of the JS-10
reports, we were able to determine the date that each trial began and the
total number of hours and separate days that each judge spent on each
trial during the month. We were not, however, able to determine from the
JS-10 reports the specific days that the judges used the courtrooms for
trials. Using page 2 of the JS-10 reports, we determined the number of
hours and the specific days that each judge spent conducting nontrial
proceedings, such as arraignments/pleas, motions, pretrial hearings, and
other proceedings. Although these proceedings may have been held in
either the courtrooms or the judges’ chambers, we decided to consider all
of this time as courtroom usage time regardless of the location where the
event occurred.

To determine the specific days that the courtrooms were used for trials
and because of AOUSC’s concerns about the JS-10, we validated the
courtroom usage information taken from these reports by reviewing
various detailed records. Since each of the courts we visited maintain
different daily records pertaining to the activities of the judges, we had to
tailor our detailed analyses for each location. In some cases, we analyzed
the judges’ and/or their courtroom deputies’ daily calendars. These
calendars provided the specific days and types of proceedings that the
judges conducted throughout the year. In other cases, we reviewed the
minute orders or clerk’s minutes maintained by the courts. Like the daily
calendars, these documents provided such details as the dates and type of
hearings that were conducted by each judge on a case-by-case basis.
Finally, for some judges we had to review case histories from the



Page 39                                       GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
Appendix I
Objectives, Scope, and Methodology




Integrated Case Management System, which is an automated docketing
system that keeps track of case events, such as trial and hearing dates.

Our detailed analyses of the various daily records showed that the JS-10
data was generally accurate, but when we found errors, we made
corrections before recording the data into our database of courtroom
usage. Identifying errors with the JS-10 data was possible because our
detailed analyses allowed us to determine all the days that the senior,
district, and visiting judges held trials and nontrial proceedings that could
have taken place in a courtroom.

Also, we reviewed court management statistics and other data, where
available, that showed the use of trial courtrooms by individuals other
than federal district judges. This included use by magistrate judges and
administrative law judges as well as various ceremonial uses of the
courtrooms. The miscellaneous usage was included in our overall
calculation of courtroom usage. After examining all the data, we credited
each courtroom with a full day of usage for all days that the records
showed that there was any activity in it. We then determined the
percentage of days that courtrooms were used by comparing actual usage
with the maximum number of federal workdays on which the courtrooms
could have been used (250) in 1995. We recognize that courtroom usage
may be affected by a number of variables, such as the number of judgeship
vacancies in a district and the number and workload of senior judges.
However, the purpose of our work was to determine actual courtroom
usage at the locations visited, not analyze the reasons for the usage
patterns we found. We did determine, on a location-by-location basis, how
many courtrooms were in use on every working day in 1995. This analysis
allowed us to identify the number of days when at least one courtroom
was vacant at each location.

To meet our second objective, we interviewed AOUSC and GSA officials and
reviewed various documents and studies pertaining to courtroom usage.
Specifically, we reviewed AOUSC documents pertaining to its nationwide
inventory of federal courtrooms and initiatives to better manage the
judiciary’s space. We also reviewed, with the assistance of an operations
research consultant, the AOUSC-commissioned study on the impact of
providing fewer courtrooms than judgeships.3 Additionally, we reviewed
documents prepared by the Rand Institute for Civil Justice and the Federal
Judicial Center that examine various aspects of courtroom usage,
including courtroom sharing. Lastly, we interviewed an official from the

3
 Leekley and Rule, op. cit.



Page 40                                     GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
Appendix I
Objectives, Scope, and Methodology




National Center for State Courts to discuss the concept of courtroom
sharing.

The results of our analysis on courtroom usage at the seven locations
visited cannot be projected across all federal district courts, within the
districts where they were located, or to the locations visited in other time
periods. We did our work between January 1996 and April 1997, in
accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.




Page 41                                     GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
Appendix II

District Courtroom Use in Dallas, Texas


                    In 1995, the U. S. District Court, Northern District of Texas was authorized
Background          12 judgeships, but it had two vacancies that remained open at the time of
                    our review. In addition, there were three senior judges in the district, but
                    none sat in Dallas. The average number of trial days per judgeship was 76.
                    The district typically holds court in four locations—Amarillo, Dallas, Fort
                    Worth, and Lubbock—but in 1995 trials were also conducted in three other
                    locations—Abilene, San Angelo, and Wichita Falls. Forty-six percent of the
                    more than 400 trials in the district were held in Dallas, and this was the
                    only location in the district included in our review.

                    All eight trial courtrooms in Dallas are located in one building—the Earle
                    Cabell Federal Building and Courthouse. In 1995, seven of these
                    courtrooms were assigned to and used predominantly by the seven district
                    judges sitting in Dallas. Another courtroom was used primarily by visiting
                    judges. According to the District Clerk, the visiting judge courtroom has
                    poor acoustics, which makes it difficult to use for jury trials. In addition to
                    the trial courtrooms, there is a small courtroom (approximately 1,000
                    square feet) in Dallas that is used for hearings and other nontrial activities.
                    We did not include this courtroom in our analysis because it is not a
                    full-sized trial courtroom. A construction contract has been awarded for a
                    ninth trial courtroom, and a tenth courtroom is planned. According to a
                    court official, the two new courtrooms are being constructed to
                    accommodate the two new district judges who have been appointed by the
                    President but not yet confirmed by the Senate.


                    In 1995, seven district judges sitting in Dallas, one visiting judge from
Overall Courtroom   another district, and one district judge from another location within the
Usage               Northern District of Texas were the primary users of eight trial
                    courtrooms in Dallas. Overall, our analysis showed that the eight
                    courtrooms were used 56 percent of the total workdays in 1995, or 1,131
                    days of the 2,000 possible days. Trials accounted for 30 percent of the
                    workdays, nontrial activities accounted for 26 percent, and the courtrooms
                    were reported not used 44 percent of the workdays. On most of the
                    nontrial days, courtrooms were used for 2 hours or less. In addition some
                    of the nontrial time—3 percent of the total workdays—was for
                    miscellaneous activities by administrative law judges, magistrate judges,
                    and judges from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Figure II.1 illustrates
                    overall usage of the eight trial courtrooms in Dallas, Texas.




                    Page 42                                      GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
                                        Appendix II
                                        District Courtroom Use in Dallas, Texas




Figure II.1: Overall Usage of Eight
District Courtrooms in Dallas, TX, in                                                No reported use
1995
                                                                                     3% Miscellaneous activity



                                                               18%                   Nontrial activity of 2
                                              44%                                    hours or less only



                                                                       5%            Nontrial activity over
                                                                                     2 hours only

                                                              30%



                                                                                     Trial activity


                                                  Reported use of courtrooms 56%




                                        Source: GAO analysis of U.S. District Court records.




                                        We did a frequency analysis of courtroom usage to determine how often
                                        all eight courtrooms were used on the same day in 1995. Our analysis
                                        showed that all courtrooms were used on only 1 day—in other words, on
                                        249 days of 250 possible workdays in 1995, at least one courtroom was
                                        vacant in Dallas.


                                        The seven district judges in Dallas in 1995 all had assigned courtrooms.
Courtroom Usage by                      The four judges with whom we spoke told us that they sometimes use
District Judges                         another judge’s courtroom, but most trials and nontrial proceedings are
                                        held in their own courtrooms. They explained that having assigned
                                        courtrooms is preferred because the current culture assumes that each
                                        judge will have his or her own courtroom, and each manages his or her
                                        caseload differently.

                                        As Figure II.2 illustrates, the district judges used their assigned
                                        courtrooms, on average, 59 percent of the workdays in 1995. Most of this
                                        usage—33 percent of the total workdays—was for trials; whereas




                                        Page 43                                                       GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
                                       Appendix II
                                       District Courtroom Use in Dallas, Texas




                                       26 percent of the days the courtrooms were used for nontrial activities. On
                                       most of the nontrial days, courtrooms were used for 2 hours or less.
                                       Individual courtroom usage ranged from a low of 48 percent, or 120 days,
                                       to a high of 80 percent, or 199 days.


Figure II.2: Use of Seven Courtrooms
by District Judges in Dallas, TX, in                                               No reported use
1995

                                                                                   Nontrial activity of 2
                                                                                   hours or less only


                                              41%           21%                    Nontrial activity over
                                                                        5%         2 hours only




                                                                  33%              Trial activity




                                                 Reported use of courtrooms 59%




                                       Source: GAO analysis of U.S. District Court records.



                                       The judges we spoke with in Dallas said that they prefer to have their own
Courtroom Sharing                      courtrooms to help them resolve cases more efficiently. They commented
                                       that the current culture assumes that each judge will have his or her own
                                       courtroom. Furthermore, they stated that lawyers, litigants, and the public
                                       have become accustomed to this arrangement, and any change could be
                                       difficult. Nonetheless, the judges said that having fewer trial courtrooms
                                       than district judges is workable. They said that if proper security were
                                       available, hearing rooms could suffice for some criminal case functions as
                                       well as for nonjury trials and motion hearings. However, the judges said
                                       that they and their staffs would have to coordinate more closely with other
                                       judges to ensure that a trial courtroom was available when needed.




                                       Page 44                                                      GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
Appendix III

District Courtroom Use in Miami, Florida


               The U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida, was authorized 16
Background     judgeships in 1995 but had 2 vacancies at the time of our review. In
               addition, there were six senior judges in the district. In 1995, the average
               trial days per judgeship was 143 days—80 percent higher than the national
               average. The district judges customarily hold court in five
               locations—Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Pierce, Key West, and West Palm
               Beach. All five sites have at least one trial courtroom. Miami, with most of
               the district’s trial activity, has the most courtrooms and was the only
               location in the district that we visited.

               In Miami, there are 3 separate buildings housing the 18 district courtrooms
               that we reviewed. The newest building is the Federal Justice Building,
               constructed in 1993. There are six trial courtrooms in this building, and in
               1995 all were assigned to district or senior judges. The U.S. Courthouse,
               which was constructed in 1983, has nine courtrooms with eight assigned
               to district or senior judges and one left unassigned in 1995. This
               unassigned courtroom did not have a fully equipped and functional
               chamber for the first half of the year, but it was still used by visiting
               judges. There are four trial courtrooms in the Old Courthouse (the U.S.
               Post Office and Courthouse). This building, built in the 1930s, has two
               courtrooms that have been vacant due to air-conditioning and mildew
               problems since the Federal Justice Building was occupied in 1993,
               according to the District Clerk. The Clerk also said that because the
               building lacks secure corridors, the movement of prisoners to these two
               courtrooms can occur only in the public corridors. The Clerk explained
               that the other two courtrooms in the Old Courthouse do not have attached
               chambers; therefore, judges must travel public corridors to and from the
               bench. Consequently, these courtrooms are primarily used by visiting
               judges for emergency hearings and administrative matters where security
               is not an issue.

               The Clerk suggested that since two of the four courtrooms in the Old
               Courthouse are not used that often for criminal trials, we should exclude
               them from our analyses, leaving a total of 16 courtrooms instead of 18.
               However, because courtroom usage records showed that all four
               courtrooms were used by visiting judges, we included these courtrooms in
               our analyses. We did not include the large ceremonial courtroom located
               in the Old Courthouse in our analyses because it is primarily used for
               ceremonial purposes.

               A new courthouse, which is estimated to cost over $100 million, is planned
               for Miami. The judiciary’s 5 year courthouse construction plan cites the



               Page 45                                    GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
                    Appendix III
                    District Courtroom Use in Miami, Florida




                    Miami project as requiring $26 million in site and design funding in fiscal
                    year 1998 and $91.4 million in construction funding in fiscal year 2000.


                    In 1995, there were nine district judges and five senior judges sitting in
Overall Courtroom   Miami. The district had two vacant judgeships that year. In addition to
Usage               these 14 judges, 6 visiting judges from other districts and 5 judges from
                    other locations within the district conducted trials and held hearings in
                    Miami in 1995. Overall, the 18 courtrooms were used 57 percent of the
                    workdays (2,581 days of the total 4,500 workdays). Trials accounted for
                    32 percent of the workdays and nontrial proceedings accounted for
                    25 percent. The courtrooms were not used 43 percent of the days. On most
                    of the nontrial days, courtrooms were used for 2 hours or less. Some of the
                    nontrial time—5 percent of the total workdays—was for miscellaneous
                    purposes. Miscellaneous use included proceedings conducted by
                    administrative law judges, naturalization and judicial swearing-in
                    ceremonies, jurist training, mock trials, and hearings conducted by
                    someone other than a federal district judge.

                    If, as previously suggested by the District Clerk, we excluded two of the
                    four courtrooms in the Old Courthouse from our analysis, the overall
                    courtroom usage rate in Miami would have been 65 percent instead of
                    57 percent. Figure III.1 illustrates overall usage of the 18 district
                    courtrooms in Miami during 1995.




                    Page 46                                     GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
                                             Appendix III
                                             District Courtroom Use in Miami, Florida




Figure III.1: Overall Usage of 18 District
Courtrooms in Miami, FL, in 1995                                                            No reported use


                                                                                            Miscellaneous activity


                                                                                            Nontrial activity of 2
                                                                                            hours or less only

                                                              5%    14%
                                                     43%                                    Nontrial activity over
                                                                             6%             2 hours only




                                                                          32%               Trial activity




                                                    Reported use of courtrooms 57%




                                             Source: GAO analysis of U.S. District Court records.




                                             We did a frequency analysis of courtroom usage to determine how often
                                             all 18 courtrooms were used on the same day. We found that all of the
                                             courtrooms were never in use on the same day in 1995. In fact, there were
                                             no days when more than 15 courtrooms were used on the same day. In
                                             other words, on any given day in 1995, there were at least three trial
                                             courtrooms reported as vacant.


                                             The nine district judges sitting in Miami in 1995 all had assigned
Courtroom Usage by                           courtrooms, which they used for most trials and nontrial activities. The
District Judges                              five judges with whom we met told us that they sometimes borrow another
                                             judge’s courtroom, but most trials and nontrial proceedings are held in
                                             their assigned courtrooms. They explained that having their own
                                             courtrooms is important because each judge manages his or her caseload
                                             a little differently, and with an assigned courtroom they always know
                                             when they can schedule a trial or hearing. The judges pointed out that




                                             Page 47                                                   GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
                                          Appendix III
                                          District Courtroom Use in Miami, Florida




                                          having a courtroom available at all times is important because they are
                                          frequently called upon to issue temporary restraining orders, many of
                                          which must be completed immediately.

                                          As figure III.2 illustrates, the district judges used their nine assigned
                                          courtrooms, on average, 73 percent of the workdays in 1995. Most of this
                                          usage—45 percent of the total workdays—was for trials; whereas
                                          28 percent of the days the courtrooms were used for nontrial activities. On
                                          most of the nontrial days, courtrooms were used for 2 hours or less.
                                          Individually, the district judges’ courtroom usage ranged from a high of
                                          80 percent, or 200 days, to a low of 59 percent, or 147 days.


Figure III.2: Use of Nine Courtrooms by
District Judges in Miami, FL, in 1995                                                        No reported use


                                                                                             Nontrial activity of 2
                                                                                             hours or less only


                                                                 20%
                                                    27%                                      Nontrial activity over
                                                                                             2 hours only
                                                                            8%




                                                                  45%




                                                                                             Trial activity




                                                     Reported use of courtrooms 73%




                                          Source: GAO analysis of U.S. District Court records.



                                          The five senior judges sitting in Miami in 1995 also had assigned
Courtroom Usage by                        courtrooms, which they used for most trials and nontrial activities. Most of
Senior Judges                             the senior judges carried reduced caseloads in 1995, but according to the
                                          court officials with whom we spoke, all of them need their own



                                          Page 48                                                  GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
                                          Appendix III
                                          District Courtroom Use in Miami, Florida




                                          courtrooms to ensure that scheduled trials and hearings are not delayed.
                                          Our analysis showed that the senior judges used their five courtrooms, on
                                          average, 45 percent of the workdays in 1995. The courtrooms were used
                                          25 percent of the days for trials and 20 percent for nontrial proceedings.
                                          The senior judges used their courtrooms considerably less than the district
                                          judges used their courtrooms. The senior judges’ courtroom utilization
                                          rates varied from a high of 66 percent, or 164 days, to a low of 20 percent,
                                          or 50 days. Figure III.3 shows the use of five assigned courtrooms by
                                          senior judges in Miami.


Figure III.3: Use of Five Courtrooms by
Senior Judges in Miami, FL, in 1995                                                              No reported use

                                                                                                 Nontrial activity of 2
                                                                                                 hours or less only



                                                        55%            14%
                                                                                                 Nontrial activity over
                                                                                                 2 hours only
                                                                             6%



                                                                             25%                 Trial activity




                                                    Reported use of courtrooms 45%


                                          Source: GAO analysis of U.S. District Court records.



                                          The judges in Miami are opposed to courtroom sharing if it means having
Courtroom Sharing                         fewer trial courtrooms than judges. The judges that we spoke with said
                                          that they believe that every district judge and senior judge in the Southern
                                          District of Florida should have his or her own courtroom. In their opinion,
                                          anything less would create a host of scheduling problems, which would
                                          lead to an increase in case continuances and delays and higher litigation
                                          costs for all parties. Furthermore, the district’s official position is that




                                          Page 49                                                     GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
Appendix III
District Courtroom Use in Miami, Florida




each facility occupied by resident judicial officers should also have a fully
functional visiting judge courtroom with a 14-person jury box and
furnished and equipped judge chambers.




Page 50                                     GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
Appendix IV

District Courtroom Use in Albuquerque, Las
Cruces, and Santa Fe, New Mexico

                  The New Mexico District covers the entire state of New Mexico. In 1995,
Background        the district was authorized five judgeships and had no vacancies. In
                  addition to the five district judges, three senior judges served in the
                  district that year. The district averaged 74 trial days per judgeship, which
                  was slightly below the national average. Court is customarily held in three
                  locations—Albuquerque, Las Cruces, and Santa Fe. There are five trial
                  courtrooms located in Albuquerque, two in Las Cruces, and one in Santa
                  Fe. A ninth courtroom is located in Roswell, but there was no recorded
                  use of this courtroom by the district or senior judges in 1995. According to
                  the District Clerk, the courtroom in Roswell is leased by the District of
                  New Mexico, but it is used almost exclusively by a judge from the Tenth
                  Circuit Court of Appeals. We did not visit or include this courtroom in our
                  analyses.

                  In 1995, the five courtrooms in Albuquerque were assigned to four district
                  judges and one senior judge. According to the District Clerk, one of these
                  courtrooms is not a full-size trial courtroom; consequently, using it for jury
                  trials is difficult. The Clerk suggested that because of its limitations we not
                  include this courtroom in our analyses of trial courtrooms. However, we
                  included it because the courtroom was assigned to a senior judge who
                  used it for trial purposes in 1995, and it is still used for trials.

                  One of the two courtrooms in Las Cruces was assigned to a senior judge,
                  and the other was used by other judges from within the district who
                  routinely hold court in Las Cruces. The one trial courtroom in Santa Fe
                  was shared by a senior and a district judge. Despite having assigned
                  courtrooms, many of the judges in the District of New Mexico customarily
                  hold trials and conduct nontrial proceedings in courtrooms located in
                  cities other than where they are sitting. Therefore, in the chief judge’s
                  opinion, the judges are sharing courtrooms.


                  Because the judges customarily hold trials and nontrial proceedings in the
Courtroom Usage   three separate locations, we examined courtroom usage from two
                  perspectives—districtwide and each of the three locations separately. We
                  found that the eight courtrooms in the District of New Mexico were used
                  by the eight judges from the district and four visiting judges from other
                  districts 44 percent of the total federal workdays in 1995. As illustrated in
                  figure IV.1, the courtrooms were used 19 percent of the days for trials and
                  25 percent for nontrial proceedings. The courtrooms were not used
                  56 percent of the workdays. Further, on most of the nontrial days,
                  courtrooms were used for 2 hours or less. If, as suggested by the District



                  Page 51                                      GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
                                       Appendix IV
                                       District Courtroom Use in Albuquerque, Las
                                       Cruces, and Santa Fe, New Mexico




                                       Clerk, we excluded the small courtroom in Albuquerque from our
                                       analyses, the overall courtroom usage rate would increase to 51 percent.


Figure IV.1: Overall Usage of Eight
District Courtrooms in New Mexico in                                                   No reported use
1995
                                                                                       Nontrial activity of 2
                                                                                       hours or less only


                                                   56%          17%


                                                                       8%              Nontrial activity over
                                                                                       2 hours only


                                                                      19%              Trial activity




                                               Reported use of courtrooms 44%




                                       Source: GAO analysis of U.S. District Court records.




                                       The following discusses overall courtroom usage and usage by district and
                                       senior judges at each of three locations. Our analysis of district and senior
                                       judges reflects their usage of all courtrooms where they tried cases and
                                       held hearings, not just their usage of courtrooms located where they were
                                       assigned. This approach was taken because the judges routinely hold court
                                       throughout the district.


Albuquerque Courtroom                  During 1995, the five courtrooms in Albuquerque were used for trials and
Usage                                  nontrial proceedings 44 percent of the workdays. Trials were conducted
                                       on 20 percent of the workdays and nontrial proceedings on 24 percent of
                                       the days. On most of the nontrial days, courtrooms were used for 2 hours
                                       or less. If we excluded the small courtroom from our analyses, the
                                       Albuquerque courtroom usage rate would increase to 55 percent.



                                       Page 52                                                   GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
                           Appendix IV
                           District Courtroom Use in Albuquerque, Las
                           Cruces, and Santa Fe, New Mexico




                           We did a frequency analysis of the courtroom usage in Albuquerque to
                           determine how often all five courtrooms were used on the same day. Our
                           analysis found that all courtrooms were used on 7 of the 250 workdays in
                           1995. In other words, on 243 days there was at least one courtroom vacant
                           in Albuquerque.

                           We also examined how district and senior judges used the five courtrooms
                           in Albuquerque. The district judges used the courtrooms in Albuquerque
                           considerably more often than the senior judges used the courtrooms. The
                           district judges used the courtrooms a total of 474 days, or 47 percent of the
                           workdays (20 percent for trials and 27 percent for nontrial purposes); the
                           senior judges used the courtroom 53 days, or 21 percent of the workdays
                           (13 percent for trials and 8 percent for nontrial purposes).


Las Cruces Courtroom       Although there is only one senior judge sitting in Las Cruces, two trial
Usage                      courtrooms are located there. According to the Chief Judge and the
                           District Clerk, one-half of the district’s criminal caseload originates from
                           the Las Cruces area, and they anticipate that this caseload will grow.
                           Therefore, a second courtroom is needed for the judges who regularly
                           travel from Albuquerque or Santa Fe to hear cases in Las Cruces.

                           Our analysis showed that the two courtrooms were used for trials and
                           nontrial activities 43 percent of the workdays in 1995. Trial days
                           accounted for 18 percent of the days, and nontrial proceedings accounted
                           for 25 percent. On most of the nontrial days, courtrooms were used for 2
                           hours or less. We also found that both courtrooms in Las Cruces were
                           used on 54 of the 250 workdays in 1995; or, stated another way, a
                           courtroom was vacant in Las Cruces on 196 days that year.

                           Unlike Albuquerque, we found that the senior judges recorded more
                           courtroom usage in Las Cruces than the district judges. Our analysis
                           showed that the senior judges used the courtroom a total of 113 days, or
                           45 percent of the workdays; the district judges’ used the courtroom 101
                           days, or 40 percent of the days.


Santa Fe Courtroom Usage   As previously stated, a senior judge and a district judge share one trial
                           courtroom in Santa Fe. In addition to these two judges, we were told that a
                           judge from the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals who sits in Santa Fe also
                           uses this courtroom when he hears cases for the district. We discussed
                           this sharing situation with the district judge and two clerks involved in



                           Page 53                                      GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
                    Appendix IV
                    District Courtroom Use in Albuquerque, Las
                    Cruces, and Santa Fe, New Mexico




                    scheduling cases for trials and other hearings. These court officials told us
                    that sometimes the competing demands on the courtroom caused
                    scheduling conflicts that resulted in a few hearings being rescheduled or
                    the district judge being required to conduct hearings in chambers. The
                    district judge told us that on a few occasions she had to travel to
                    Albuquerque to find a courtroom in which to conduct a hearing.

                    The courtroom in Santa Fe was used for trials and nontrial proceedings on
                    48 percent of the total workdays. The courtroom was used 13 percent of
                    the total workdays for trials and 35 percent of the total workdays for
                    nontrial activities. On most of the nontrial days, the courtroom was used
                    for 2 hours or less. Our analysis of courtroom usage in Santa Fe also
                    showed that the courtroom was used by district judges for trial and
                    nontrial activities a total of 74 days, or 30 percent of the 250 workdays.
                    Senior judges used the courtroom 40 days, or 16 percent of the workdays.


                    The Chief Judge and several other court officials told us that although the
Courtroom Sharing   district has assigned courtrooms, the judges are now sharing courtrooms
                    because they travel between locations so frequently to conduct trials and
                    other hearings. Their opinion is bolstered by the fact that we identified five
                    instances when four judges recorded courtroom activities in two different
                    locations in a single day. The Chief Judge also said he believes that
                    courtroom sharing will become more widespread in the future because the
                    judiciary will continue to grow, but its budgets are likely to tighten. He
                    added that as budgets tighten, court administrators and judges will be
                    forced to choose between people or space.

                    According to the Chief Judge, courtroom sharing will increase in the
                    District of New Mexico after the courthouse now under construction in
                    Albuquerque is completed. In the new courthouse, he said he envisions
                    that courtrooms will not be assigned because the 15 judges’ chambers will
                    be located on different floors from the 10 courtrooms. Initially, there will
                    be as many courtrooms as there are judges, but on the basis of the
                    judiciary’s 10-year projection, 15 judges (5 district, 4 seniors, and 6
                    magistrate judges) are expected to share the 10 trial-sized courtrooms.

                    The district judge who shares a courtroom in Santa Fe told us that
                    although sharing may be a good concept, it makes case scheduling more
                    complex and difficult. She stated that courtroom sharing would probably
                    work best if senior judges, especially those who do not carry criminal
                    caseloads, shared courtrooms.



                    Page 54                                      GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
Appendix V

District Courtroom Use in San Diego,
California

                    The U.S. District Court, Southern District of California, was authorized
Background          eight judgeships in 1995 but still had two vacancies in August 1996. In
                    1995, six district judges and five senior judges tried cases and conducted
                    hearings in the district. The district averaged 63 trial days per judgeship,
                    which was slightly below the national average.

                    The District Clerk’s office occupies space in the Edward J. Schwartz
                    Federal Building located in San Diego. The district judges and their staffs
                    are located in the adjacent Edward J. Schwartz Courthouse, where all
                    trials were completed in the district’s 12 trial courtrooms during 1995.
                    Because of the anticipation of additional judges and the growing space
                    needs for the court, the judiciary asked GSA to construct four additional
                    trial courtrooms in the Edward J. Schwartz Courthouse. These courtrooms
                    became operational in early 1996. Additionally, the judiciary plans to
                    construct a new courthouse annex that will include additional trial
                    courtrooms. The new courthouse annex is listed in the judiciary’s 5 year
                    courthouse construction plan and is slated to receive $18.2 million in site
                    funding in fiscal year 1998, $5.2 million in design funding in fiscal year
                    2000, and $91. 2 million for construction in fiscal year 2001.


                    In 1995, the six district judges and five senior judges sitting in San Diego
Overall Courtroom   each had an assigned courtroom that they used for conducting trials and
Usage               nontrial proceedings. The twelfth courtroom was used primarily for trials
                    and related activities by a magistrate judge and seven visiting judges from
                    other districts. This courtroom was previously assigned to another senior
                    judge, but because of illness he recorded court time on only 1 day in 1995.

                    Our analysis in San Diego showed that the 12 courtrooms were used
                    59 percent of the workdays in 1995 and not used 41 percent of the days.
                    On 25 percent of the workdays the courtrooms were used for trials, and on
                    34 percent of the workdays they were used for nontrial activities. On most
                    of the nontrial days, courtrooms were used for 2 hours or less. Included in
                    the nontrial activities were miscellaneous activities, such as hearings
                    conducted by magistrate judges, grand jury proceedings, training, and
                    meetings. Figure V.1 shows overall usage for trial and nontrial activities
                    and nonusage of the 12 courtrooms in San Diego during 1995.




                    Page 55                                     GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
                                           Appendix V
                                           District Courtroom Use in San Diego,
                                           California




Figure V.1: Overall Usage of 12 District
Courtrooms in San Diego, CA, in 1995
                                                                                            No reported use


                                                                                            Miscellaneous activity


                                                            6%                              Nontrial activity of 2
                                                                                            hours or less only
                                                                       19%

                                                     41%                     9%             Nontrial activity over
                                                                                            2 hours only



                                                                 25%



                                                                                            Trial activity



                                                  Reported use of courtrooms 59%




                                           Source: GAO analysis of U.S. District Court records.




                                           We did a frequency analysis of courtroom usage to determine how often
                                           all 12 courtrooms were used on the same day. This analysis showed that
                                           all the courtrooms were used on only 1 day in 1995. In fact, on 97 percent,
                                           or 242, of the 250 workdays in 1995, there were at least 2 courtrooms
                                           reported as vacant.


                                           We were told that the district judges use their courtrooms nearly every
Courtroom Usage by                         day. As a rule, the judges hear motions and other short matters on
District Judges                            Mondays, and on the remaining days they hold trials and conduct longer
                                           hearings. Our analysis found that the six district judges used their assigned
                                           courtrooms, on average, 71 percent of the workdays and had no reported
                                           use 29 percent of the days. District judges used their courtrooms for trials
                                           slightly more often than for nontrial activities—trials consumed 37 percent
                                           of the workdays, and nontrial activities represented 34 percent of the days.
                                           On most nontrial days, courtrooms were used for 2 hours or less. The




                                           Page 56                                                   GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
                                       Appendix V
                                       District Courtroom Use in San Diego,
                                       California




                                       district judges’ courtroom usage ranged from 143 days, or 57 percent, to
                                       198 days, or 79 percent. Figure V.2 illustrates the district judges’ average
                                       use of their courtrooms for trial and nontrial purposes.


Figure V.2: Use of Six Courtrooms by
District Judges in San Diego, CA, in                                                No reported use
1995
                                                                                    Nontrial activity of 2
                                                                                    hours or less only




                                                       20%

                                            29%                  14%                Nontrial activity over
                                                                                    2 hours only



                                                          37%




                                                                                    Trial activity



                                                 Reported use of courtrooms 71%



                                       Source: GAO analysis of U.S. District Court records.



                                       The five senior judges also had assigned courtrooms that they used for
Courtroom Usage by                     conducting trials and nontrial activities. The senior judges used their
Senior Judges                          courtrooms considerably less than the district judges, averaging 43 percent
                                       of the workdays. The courtrooms were used 17 percent of the workdays
                                       for trials and 26 percent of the days for nontrial activities. Only one senior
                                       judge, who recorded 156 days of usage, exceeded 50-percent usage. The
                                       minimum usage was 59 days, or 24 percent. Figure V.3 shows the senior
                                       judges’ average usage of their courtrooms for trials and nontrial purposes.




                                       Page 57                                                       GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
                                        Appendix V
                                        District Courtroom Use in San Diego,
                                        California




Figure V.3: Use of Five Courtrooms by
Senior Judges in San Diego, CA, in                                                       No reported use
1995

                                                                                        Nontrial activity of 2
                                                                                        hours or less only

                                                  57%
                                                                22%

                                                                            4%           Nontrial activity over
                                                                                         2 hours only


                                                                      17%

                                                                                         Trial activity




                                                  Reported use of courtrooms 43%




                                        Source: GAO analysis of U.S. District Court records.



                                        We were told by the Chief Judge and other court officials that courtroom
Courtroom Sharing                       sharing by district judges would be very difficult because of their heavy
                                        caseloads. The Chief Judge said that sharing may decrease the efficiency
                                        of the judiciary because the availability of a courtroom is a key factor in
                                        getting cases to settle, along with an available judge and a firm trial date.
                                        The absence of one or more of these factors, according to the Chief Judge,
                                        could hamper the settlement of cases and increase case backlogs. She also
                                        stated that sharing could have consequences further down the judicial
                                        process, affecting marshals, jail staff, juries, and other people involved.
                                        This is because sharing might necessitate longer days in court, thus
                                        requiring longer or additional shifts for these personnel. Ultimately, she
                                        said, the cost savings from having fewer courtrooms than judges may be
                                        more than offset by other costs imposed on the system.

                                        The court officials with whom we met did say that courtroom sharing
                                        could be possible among the senior judges. In fact, the Chief Judge said
                                        there are plans for three senior judges to share a courtroom when a senior
                                        judges’ suite is constructed in the current courthouse. She added that if
                                        necessary, these judges would also use other available assigned




                                        Page 58                                                   GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
Appendix V
District Courtroom Use in San Diego,
California




courtrooms. Also, she stated that the district will be in a sharing mode
when the vacant judgeships are filled and new judgeships are assigned, as
they will then have more district judges than courtrooms.




Page 59                                   GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
Appendix VI

District Courtroom Use in Washington, D.C.


                    The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia is located in
Background          Washington, D.C. The district was authorized 15 judgeships but had 3
                    vacancies at the time of our review. At the start of 1995, the district had 15
                    district judges and 7 senior judges. In July and August 1995, two of the
                    district judges took senior status. Also, in August 1995, one of the senior
                    judges died. Thus, by mid-August, the court had 13 district judges and 8
                    senior judges. The district averaged 80 trial days per judgeship in 1995,
                    which was equal to the national average.

                    The district holds court in one location, the United States Courthouse in
                    Washington, D.C. This building contains 19 trial courtrooms plus 1 larger
                    ceremonial courtroom. Because the district had more judges than trial
                    courtrooms, up to three district judges did not have their own assigned
                    courtrooms during 1995. Instead, these judges used courtrooms assigned
                    to other judges when they were available. Construction of a new
                    courthouse annex is planned in Washington, D.C. The judiciary’s 5 year
                    courthouse construction plan calls for this project to receive $5.7 million
                    in design funding in fiscal year 1998 and $98.2 million in construction
                    funding in fiscal year 1999.


                    In 1995, a total of 22 district and senior judges used the district’s 19 trial
Overall Courtroom   courtrooms. These courtrooms were used for trials and nontrial activities
Usage               on 61 percent of the workdays. The courtrooms were used 27 percent of
                    the workdays for trials, 34 percent for nontrial activities, and they were
                    not used 39 percent of the days. On most of the nontrial days, courtrooms
                    were used for 2 hours or less. Figure VI.1 illustrates overall usage of the 19
                    trial courtrooms in Washington, D.C., during 1995.

                    Not included in Figure VI.1 is the use of the district’s ceremonial
                    courtroom. This courtroom was not assigned to a particular judge, but
                    rather was used by judges primarily for naturalization ceremonies,
                    attorney admission ceremonies, and for trials and related activities that
                    required additional seating and space. During 1995, the ceremonial
                    courtroom was used on 80 days, or 32 percent of the total workdays. On 44
                    days, the courtroom was used for trial and related activities. The
                    remaining 36 days were for miscellaneous uses by court and other
                    personnel, such as educational institutions’ mock trials, school tours,
                    other training events, and meetings.




                    Page 60                                     GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
                                     Appendix VI
                                     District Courtroom Use in Washington, D.C.




Figure VI.1: Overall Usage of 19
District Courtrooms in Washington,
D.C., in 1995                                                                        No reported use


                                                                                     Nontrial activity of 2
                                                                                     hours or less only



                                                          27%
                                               39%


                                                                     7%              Nontrial activity over
                                                                                     2 hours only


                                                            27%




                                                                                     Trial activity

                                                Reported use of courtrooms 61%



                                     Source: GAO analysis of U.S. District Court records.




                                     We also did a frequency analysis to determine how often all 19 trial
                                     courtrooms were used on the same day. This analysis showed that all of
                                     the courtrooms were never used on the same workday in 1995. In fact, on
                                     over 95 percent of the workdays, or 239 days, there were at least three
                                     courtrooms reported as vacant.


                                     In 1995, the district had 13 district judges for the entire year and 2 others
Courtroom Usage by                   who took senior status during the summer of that year. In determining
District Judges                      district judge use of the courtrooms, we prorated the courtroom use of the
                                     two judges who took senior status during the year based on their time in
                                     district judge status.

                                     Figure VI.2 shows that district judges’ average use of the courtrooms was
                                     about 74 percent of the workdays in 1995. Thirty-three percent of the days
                                     the courtrooms were used for trials, 41 percent of the days they were used




                                     Page 61                                                    GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
                                          Appendix VI
                                          District Courtroom Use in Washington, D.C.




                                          for nontrial activities, and 26 percent of the days the courtrooms were not
                                          used. On most of the nontrial days, courtrooms were used for 2 hours or
                                          less. The number of days that district judges used a courtroom during 1995
                                          ranged from 80 days, or 32 percent, to 205 days, or 82 percent of the
                                          workdays.


Figure VI.2: Use of Courtrooms by
District Judges in Washington, D.C., in                                                  No reported use
1995

                                                                                         Nontrial activity of 2
                                                                                         hours or less only


                                                               31%
                                                 26%


                                                                        10%              Nontrial activity over
                                                                                         2 hours only


                                                             33%




                                                                                         Trial activity


                                                       Reported use of courtrooms 74%



                                          Source: GAO analysis of U.S. District Court records.



                                          In 1995, the district had six senior judges for the entire year, two district
Courtroom Usage by                        judges who took senior status during the year, and one senior judge who
Senior Judges                             died. Thus, the district ended the year with eight senior judges. In
                                          determining the senior judges’ use of the courtrooms, we prorated the
                                          usage time of the two judges who took senior status during the year based
                                          on the number of days they were in senior status and included all of the
                                          courtroom time of the senior judge who died during the year.

                                          Figure VI.3 shows that senior judges’ average use of the courtrooms was
                                          about 38 percent—considerably less than district judges’ average use.
                                          Nontrial activities accounted for the most usage at 22 percent of the




                                          Page 62                                                   GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
                                        Appendix VI
                                        District Courtroom Use in Washington, D.C.




                                        workdays; whereas trial usage was only 16 percent and the courtrooms
                                        were not used 62 percent of the workdays. The number of days that senior
                                        judges used a courtroom ranged from 40 days, or 16 percent, to 128 days,
                                        or 51 percent of workdays in 1995.


Figure VI.3: Use of Courtrooms by
Senior Judges in Washington, D.C., in                                               No reported use
1995
                                                                                    Nontrial activity of 2
                                                                                    hours or less only


                                                  62%          19%
                                                                                    3% Nontrial activity over
                                                                                    2 hours only


                                                                     16%            Trial activity




                                                   Reported use of courtrooms 38%



                                        Source: GAO analysis of U.S. District Court records.



                                        The Chief Judge, two district judges who had tried cases without assigned
Courtroom Sharing                       courtrooms, and other court officials told us that courtroom sharing is
                                        possible, as evidenced by their actual experiences. The Chief Judge stated
                                        that sharing had been implemented out of necessity when the number of
                                        judges exceeded available trial courtrooms. However, the judges said that
                                        they preferred that each judge have a courtroom to ensure more efficient
                                        and effective case management. The Chief Judge said that he was
                                        concerned that sharing on a larger scale might adversely affect the
                                        flexibility that the judges have in individually managing their cases and
                                        setting case schedules.

                                        The judges stated that in addition to the availability of a judge and
                                        maintaining firm trial dates, the availability of a courtroom has been
                                        another key element in achieving case settlements and closures rather
                                        than proceeding with actual trials. None of the judges that we spoke with




                                        Page 63                                                      GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
Appendix VI
District Courtroom Use in Washington, D.C.




could recall any instance when a judge without an assigned courtroom had
not been able to find an available courtroom when needed. Courtroom
sharing, they noted, had caused some inconveniences, such as having to
move trial exhibits and participants’ materials from one courtroom to
another or having delays because jurors or participants had gone to the
wrong courtroom. They also indicated that the proximity of their
chambers to an unassigned courtroom could be a problem because they
were not always able to quickly return to chambers to handle other
business during short court recesses.

One judge noted that the successful implementation of courtroom sharing
had been due in part to the large number of trial courtrooms in the
courthouse. Sharing, he said, in smaller courthouses might be more
difficult. Further, the judges interviewed said that sharing is more feasible
among senior judges, particularly those who carry smaller caseloads.




Page 64                                      GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
Appendix VII

Comments From the Administrative Office
of the United States Courts




See p. 23.




               Page 65        GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
                    Appendix VII
                    Comments From the Administrative Office
                    of the United States Courts




See pp. 23-26.




Now on pp. 22-23.




Now on p. 4.
See p. 25.




                    Page 66                                   GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
                     Appendix VII
                     Comments From the Administrative Office
                     of the United States Courts




Now on p. 9.
See p. 25.




Now on pp. 4-5
and pp. 17-19,
respectively.
Modified text. See
p. 17 and GAO
comment 1.




                     Page 67                                   GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
                           Appendix VII
                           Comments From the Administrative Office
                           of the United States Courts




Now on pp. 4-5 and
pp. 17-19, respectively.
Modified text. See
pp. 17-18 and GAO
comment 2.




Now on pp. 4-5 and
pp. 17-19, respectively,
See GAO comment 3.




                           Page 68                                   GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
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                        Comments From the Administrative Office
                        of the United States Courts




Now on p. 2 and p. 5,
respectively,
Modified text.
See p. 16
and GAO comment 4.




Modified text.
See p. 7
and GAO comment 5.


Now on p. 7.

Now on p. 7.




                        Page 69                                   GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
                     Appendix VII
                     Comments From the Administrative Office
                     of the United States Courts




Now on p. 21.
See GAO comment 6.




                     Page 70                                   GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
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                     of the United States Courts




Now on p. 18.
See GAO comment 7.




Now on p. 16.


Now on p. 4.
Modified text. See
pp. 4, 16, and 22;
See GAO comment 8.




                     Page 71                                   GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
                Appendix VII
                Comments From the Administrative Office
                of the United States Courts




Now on p. 16.




Now on p. 12.




                Page 72                                   GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
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                        Comments From the Administrative Office
                        of the United States Courts




Now on p. 15.
Modified text. See
p. 12 and GAO comment
9.




Now on p. 12.




Now on p. 15.
See GAO comment 10.




                        Page 73                                   GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
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                      Comments From the Administrative Office
                      of the United States Courts




Now on pp. 11-12.
See GAO comment 11.




Now on p. 15.
Modified text.
See p. 14
and GAO comment 12.




                      Page 74                                   GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
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                      of the United States Courts




See GAO comment 13.




See GAO comment 14.




See GAO comment 15.




                      Page 75                                   GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
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                     of the United States Courts




Now on p. 9.
Modified text. See
pp. 9 and 41; see
GAO comment 16.




Now on p. 9.




                     Page 76                                   GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
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                      Comments From the Administrative Office
                      of the United States Courts




Now on p. 10.
See GAO comment 17.




See GAO comment 18.




                      Page 77                                   GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
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                      Comments From the Administrative Office
                      of the United States Courts




See GAO comment 19.




See GAO comment 20.




                      Page 78                                   GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
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                 Comments From the Administrative Office
                 of the United States Courts




See pp. 25-26.




See p. 24.




                 Page 79                                   GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
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Comments From the Administrative Office
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Page 80                                   GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
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                      Comments From the Administrative Office
                      of the United States Courts




See GAO comment 16.




                      Page 81                                   GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
               Appendix VII
               Comments From the Administrative Office
               of the United States Courts




               1. AOUSC observed that the judiciary had undertaken a comprehensive
GAO Comments   plan to improve space management and indicated that our report should
               recognize those actions. Although our objectives were to evaluate
               courtroom usage rather than assess the judiciary’s space management
               program, we have noted the judiciary’s space management activity in the
               report.

               2. AOUSC noted that the judiciary has recently adopted a policy change
               that includes consideration by judicial councils of the feasibility of
               courtroom sharing for senior and visiting judges. We have included that
               information in the report. However, AOUSC acknowledges that the policy
               reaffirms the practice of providing one courtroom for each active judge.
               Accordingly, we believe the additional analyses we recommend are still
               necessary to fully evaluate the need for courtrooms.

               3. AOUSC noted that the Judicial Conference has adopted criteria for
               judicial council’s to consider in establishing or closing nonresident
               facilities, that is facilities that do not have permanently assigned judges.
               We did not include detailed information about this initiative in our report
               because the use of nonresident facilities was outside the scope of our
               review.

               4. AOUSC cited a survey report that indicated that states also have
               policies of providing one trial courtroom for each judge and suggested that
               we include this information in our report. Although state court activities
               were outside the scope of our review, we did discuss courtroom usage
               issues with a representative of the National Center for State Courts, who
               was unaware of any completed research on the issue at the time of our
               meeting. As a result, we had not included information about state courts in
               our draft report. However, we have added information to the report
               concerning the September 1996 study referred to by AOUSC.

               5. AOUSC stated that the cost estimates used to provide background
               information about the significance of the issue of courtroom use were
               misleading given that other factors—such as congressional restraint or
               availability of senior judges—would influence actual costs in the future
               and recommended that the discussion of cost be deleted. It was not our
               objective to project future courtroom costs in this report. However, we
               believed that some information about possible costs was important to
               provide an understanding of the significance of the assignment and
               construction of courtrooms. We recognized that costs vary by location and
               selected the estimate for Washington, D.C., because it is used by GSA as a



               Page 82                                     GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
Appendix VII
Comments From the Administrative Office
of the United States Courts




benchmark and because it was representative of the lower part of the
overall range of costs; thus, it was intentionally conservative. AOUSC also
stated that our use of the judiciary’s “Long Range Plan for the Federal
Courts” to estimate the number of judgeships needed in the future as a
basis for an overall estimate of potential costs was misleading because it is
unlikely that Congress would authorize the number of judgeships called
for in that plan. Although we recognize that many factors will have an
effect on the actual costs of building courtrooms in the future, the
judiciary’s estimates of the need for judges was the best available estimate
at the time of our study.

6. AOUSC cited the RAND study of courtroom utilization, in particular its
observations about the complexity and importance of any research on
courtroom usage. We discuss the RAND study on pages 19-21 of our report
and agree with its observations that many factors and trade-offs must be
analyzed to fully evaluate courtroom utilization. The need for a
comprehensive study of this sort is the principal basis for our
recommendation.

7. AOUSC noted that until the study it commissioned (the Leekley and
Rule study discussed on page 18 of our report), there was no research
available on the impact of changing the ratio of courtrooms to judges, and
it suggested that we further emphasize the importance of this study in our
report. We agree that research on this issue has been limited. However,
our and others’ assessments of the Leekley and Rule study indicated that it
has limited value in meeting its objective of determining the ratio of
courtrooms to judges. We believe we have provided sufficient information
about the study for readers to understand its contribution to debate on
this issue.

8. AOUSC stated that court scheduling data were offered to our staff
during this work but were not considered. We acknowledge that some
judges in some locations maintained data on how their courtrooms were
scheduled (as opposed to used), and they discussed those data with us.
However, the statement that the data were not considered is incorrect. We
did consider whether such data could be used in our methodology but
concluded that it could not be used for several reasons, including (1) such
data were not available for all judges in all locations; and (2) even if such
data had been available, translating them into estimates of courtroom
usage was methodologically difficult because, for example, scheduling
multiple events at the same time was a common practice. We acknowledge
in the report that other factors, such as latent use and scheduling, should



Page 83                                    GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
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Comments From the Administrative Office
of the United States Courts




be considered in any comprehensive study of courtroom usage, and we
have revised our report to clarify that such data exist in some locations.

9. AOUSC noted that courtrooms are either necessary or the best venue
for certain pre-trial activities and suggested that our report acknowledge
this. The draft report stated that nontrial (including pre-trial) activities
could potentially be held in some cases (and our work showed that they
sometimes were) in hearing rooms, conference rooms, or chambers.
However, we have added language to the report to make explicit that in
some cases trial courtrooms may be the best venue for such activities.

10. AOUSC observed that security issues might arise if conference rooms
were used instead of courtrooms in criminal cases and that in some cases
appropriate space must be provided for press and the public who have a
right to attend many proceedings. We agree that security is an important
issue and that many other factors need to be considered in determining
the number of courtrooms that are needed. We believe our
recommendation for a comprehensive study of courtroom usage should
include all of these relevant factors.

11. AOUSC expressed concern that if varied sizes of courtrooms are built
to reduce costs rather than one standard sized courtroom for each judge,
other costs will be incurred because of complications of coordinated
scheduling or possible delays in proceedings if a courtroom of appropriate
size is not available. We agree that consideration should be given to other
costs that could arise from alternatives to the
standard-sized-courtroom-for-each-judge practice. Our recommendation
specifically includes consideration of a wide range of factors. We note,
however, that judges we met with during this review told us that hearing
rooms were used for some nontrial activities or even criminal case
functions when security was provided. Additional information as
contemplated in our recommendation is necessary to assess the likelihood
that such additional costs would occur.

12. AOUSC noted that videoconferencing is not a substitute for a fully
equipped courtroom, and suggested we eliminate consideration of such
alternatives from our discussion. We did not suggest that
videoconferencing be used when a full-sized courtroom is needed.
However, enhanced technology such as videoconferencing may be
effective for certain proceedings, and thus reduce the need for as many
full-sized courtrooms or other space. FJC, in its comments on the draft of
this report, said that some federal courts are using two-way



Page 84                                     GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
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Comments From the Administrative Office
of the United States Courts




videoconferencing for some civil proceedings and that federal judges have
used the telephone for hearing motions and other matters for more than 20
years. We believe that this technology could be one tool to help the
judiciary use its limited resources effectively.

13. AOUSC pointed out that money is saved when a case is settled before
trial and that such savings should be considered in evaluating the need for
courtrooms. We agree that savings are derived when cases settle before
trial, and the role courtrooms play in achieving them should be part of the
judiciary’s consideration of how many and what types of courtrooms are
needed. Currently, the judiciary does not make this type of comparison.

14. AOUSC stated that our audit team should conduct the promised exit
conferences with each chief judge whose court was studied, and the
judges’ views should be included in our report. Our staff did meet with the
chief judges or their designees at all locations visited to obtain their views
on the importance of an available courtroom and on courtroom sharing.
We summarized those views in our report. We also shared and discussed
the data we developed at each location with the judges and other court
officials with one exception, Denver. In Denver, we collected data on
courtroom usage that are presented in a separate letter on courtroom
usage in locations additional to those discussed in this report, and we
issued that data in response to another congressional request
(GAO/GGD-97-59R). In that case, court officials were unable to schedule an
exit conference at the time we completed our detailed field work (in
February 1997), although we did provide the court with a copy of our
analysis and findings. Since then we have made numerous requests to
arrange an exit conference. We discussed this problem with AOUSC officials
during our exit conference with them on March 21, 1997, and those
officials told us that the chief judge and district clerk were probably too
busy with the Oklahoma City bombing trial to return our calls.

AOUSC officials also said that several judges stated that the audit team’s
members’ minds were made up before they entered the court and they
were not interested in hearing how to get the complete picture. AOUSC also
noted that our audit team did not follow up on a suggestion to interview a
particular judge who had significant experience with courtroom sharing in
state court. AOUSC did not provide any specific information that would
permit us to comment further on those observations. However, our work
was conducted in accordance with generally accepted government
auditing standards. Those standards include rigorous processes,
procedures, and internal controls to ensure objective analysis and



Page 85                                     GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
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Comments From the Administrative Office
of the United States Courts




reporting of our findings. The reviews inherent in those processes have
provided no evidence that the work was not conducted in accordance with
our standards. We acknowledge that we were unable to talk to every judge
or other official suggested to us in the course of our review, but we note
that we did meet with a number of judges and others who had experience
or views on courtroom sharing, both positive and negative.

15. AOUSC observed that obtaining the views of other court users such as
U.S. attorneys would have provided additional information about
courtroom sharing. Our objective for this review was to obtain information
about how often and for what purposes courtrooms have been used in
selected locations and examine steps the judiciary has taken to assess
space and courtroom usage issues. Accordingly, the views of other
possible participants in courtroom activities were outside the scope of our
review. However, we agree that the views of such participants could be
important in a comprehensive assessment of courtroom usage as we
recommend.

16. AOUSC stated that the data collected should not be used to project
courtroom usage for other time periods, even in the courts that were
studied. AOUSC offered some additional data concerning districtwide trial
rates as evidence that our data may not be representative. We agree that
our data cannot be used to project usage for the courts generally or for the
locations or districts we visited, and we have added language to our
discussion of methodology to clarify that point. For a variety of reasons,
we do not believe that the trial rate data provided by AOUSC is a definitive
indicator of courtroom usage. For example, because some trials can take a
few hours to complete while others take months, the relationship between
the number of trials and courtroom usage is uncertain.

17. AOUSC stated that the courtrooms that were not usable should not
have been included in our data, and in particular we should have deleted
three specific courtrooms in Miami from our analysis because they were
not assigned to a full-time judge. Our analysis included only the
courtrooms assigned to or used for trials or other legal proceedings by
active and senior district judges and by visiting judges. Thus, we did not
include unused or unusable courtrooms, and we adjusted our data where
appropriate to take into consideration courtrooms that were temporarily
out of service. The three unassigned courtrooms in Miami were included
in our analyses because they were used for trials and other proceedings by
visiting judges from other locations.




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18. AOUSC stated that vacant judgeships should not have been counted in
the courtroom usage data we reported. We did not do so. Our analysis
included information on the usage of district trial courtrooms at each
location by the judges who used those courtrooms. We provided
information on judicial vacancies as background to inform the reader that
some courts had fewer judges than they were authorized.

19. AOUSC observed that our analysis contained “distortions” because of
our inclusion of courtroom usage in districts where judges routinely heard
cases in courtrooms located in different cities many miles apart, such as
New Mexico and Miami (where judges hear cases in Key West). We do not
agree that the data we reported for New Mexico or Miami were distorted.
We recognized that these situations were different from the other
locations we reviewed. In the case of New Mexico, we presented
courtroom usage data from two perspectives—districtwide and for each of
the three locations we visited. (Another location—Roswell—was not
included because there was no district judge sitting there, and district
judges did not use that courtroom in 1995.) AOUSC officials told us that they
believed that when judges were holding court in other locations, we
should not have considered their assigned courtroom available for use.
However, Miami court officials told us that when Miami district judges
visited other locations in the district, their assigned courtrooms were
available for use by other judges. Thus, we included in our analyses the
use of the Miami courtrooms by any judge.

20. AOUSC stated that 250 days is an unrealistic number of days to use as
the number of days court could be held. In particular, AOUSC stated that
there are days when all judges in a district are required to be in
districtwide meetings. We recognize that there are reasons, such as
districtwide meetings or other factors such as illness or vacations, that
may result in judges not being available to use a courtroom. In fact, AOUSC
could consider such factors when deciding how many full-sized
courtrooms are needed. We focused our work on how often and for what
purposes courtrooms were used, not the reasons why judges did not use
them. In the absence of any other estimate of available days, the number
of federal workdays in 1995—250—seemed like a reasonable starting point
for such an analysis.




Page 87                                    GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
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Comments From the Federal Judicial Center




See p. 26.

Now on pp. 22-23.
Modified text.
See pp. 22-23.



Now on p. 18.
See p. 26.
Now on pp. 22-23.




                    Page 88   GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
                           Appendix VIII
                           Comments From the Federal Judicial Center




Now on pp. 22-23.




Modified text.
See pp. 17-18.
Now on p. 17.




Now on p. 9.
Modified text.
See pp. 8-9, 32, and 41.

Now on p. 41.


Now on pp. 7-8.

Now on p. 7.
Modified text. See
p. 7 and app. VII,
GAO comment 5.




                           Page 89                                     GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
                      Appendix VIII
                      Comments From the Federal Judicial Center




Now on pp. 2 and
21, respectively.
See GAO comment 1.




Modified text. See
p. 11 and app. VII,
GAO comment 4.




Now on p. 2.


Now on p. 11.

Modified text.
See p. 12.




                      Page 90                                     GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
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                        Comments From the Federal Judicial Center




Now on p. 12.
Modified text. See
p. 12.
Now on p. 22.




Now on p. 21.
Now on p. 12.
See GAO comment 2.

Now on p. 4.




Now on pp. 14 and 15,
respectively.
Modified text.
See p. 14 and
app. VII, GAO comment
12.




Modified text.
See p. 5.

Now on p. 5.




See GAO comment 3.




                        Page 91                                     GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
                         Appendix VIII
                         Comments From the Federal Judicial Center




Now on p. 11.


Now on p. 42.
Now on p. 46.
Now on p. 55.




Now on p. 13.



Now on p. 40.


Now on p. 12. See app.
VII, GAO comment 2;
and app. VIII, GAO
comment 4.




Now on p. 16.

See GAO comment 5.




                         Page 92                                     GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
                     Appendix VIII
                     Comments From the Federal Judicial Center




Now on p. 20.


See GAO comment 6.




                     Page 93                                     GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
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               Comments From the Federal Judicial Center




               A number of FJC’s comments were essentially the same as those provided
GAO Comments   by AOUSC. To avoid redundancy, we do not comment if the matter was
               addressed in our response to AOUSC’s comments.

               1. FJC observed that many parties—not just judges—influence
               courtroom use. We agree that judges do not have total control over the
               process and that numerous factors can and do influence it. However, as
               discussed in our report, the judiciary has not analyzed how these factors
               affect courtroom usage, compiled data on how often and for what
               purposes courtrooms are actually used, or developed criteria based on
               such analyses for determining how many and what types of courtrooms
               are needed to effectively administer justice. Without these basic data and
               criteria, the judiciary is not in a good position to fully assess how other
               factors, such as national and local changes in prosecution policy, influence
               judges’ control and courtroom usage.

               2. FJC points out that courtrooms not in use on a specific day may not be
               available for other needs such as a longer trial. We recognize that when
               some courtrooms are available on a particular day, they may not always be
               suitable for meeting all court needs. On the other hand, as mentioned in
               the report, on most nontrial days, courtrooms were used for 2 hours or
               less. Therefore, opportunities may exist to use courtrooms that become
               available unexpectedly to more efficiently manage those activities that
               take up shorter blocks of time. Further analyses could include exploring
               how different-sized blocks of unused courtroom time could efficiently
               accommodate different types of court activities. We agree with FJC that the
               judiciary currently lacks data to adequately analyze this possible use. Our
               data on unused days offer useful insights that could be a starting point for
               a thorough examination of courtroom usage patterns and, relatedly,
               courtroom needs.

               3. FJC noted that the use of courtrooms by other parties, such as
               magistrate judges, further complicates analysis of courtroom usage. We
               agree this could add to the complexity of the analysis. However, our
               methodology centered on trying to determine how each district courtroom
               was used. In general, we found that magistrate judges at the locations we
               visited typically conducted proceedings in their own courtrooms or
               chambers. In the few instances where magistrate judges used a district
               courtroom, we verified this type of use with court personnel and recorded
               it as district courtroom use.




               Page 94                                     GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
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Comments From the Federal Judicial Center




Essentially, we recorded magistrate judges’ trial and nontrial activities
conducted in district courtrooms using the same criteria that we used for
district judges.

4. FJC pointed out that not all senior judges carry reduced workloads and
thus this factor cannot be assumed to reduce the need for courtrooms. We
recognize that senior judges can carry full caseloads and agree this should
be taken into account as part of any attempt to change how they are
assigned courtrooms. However, our data clearly show that on average,
senior judges used their courtrooms significantly less frequently than
active judges. Further, as mentioned in the report, judges we talked to said
that if changes are to occur related to assigning courtrooms, senior judges
are the most likely candidates for courtroom sharing. Also, according to
AOUSC’s comments, the Judicial Conference recently adopted a policy
change related to courtroom use that included an effort to explore
courtroom sharing among senior judges.

5. FJC said it was unclear whether our observation that the judiciary does
not have data to substantiate the extent to which latent use affects
courtroom use implied that the judiciary’s standard statistical data system
should be revamped to include such information, which FJC said would be
impractical and undesirable. We did not intend to imply that the judiciary’s
lack of data in this regard should be remedied by changing the reporting
system. We believe there could be alternative methodologies for gathering
data on latent use and other factors so that the impact of these factors can
be assessed. We believe that the methodology for capturing this
information should be left to the discretion of the judiciary or the study
group doing the research.

6. FJC expressed concern that we avoid the implication that courtroom
use policy should be based solely on quantifiable measures. It is not our
intent to limit the judiciary’s flexibility in determining how best to develop
courtroom usage data, consider other factors, or fully explore this issue. It
seems reasonable that qualitative and quantitative measures would both
be used in developing the evidence needed to determine the number, type,
and location of needed courtrooms.




Page 95                                     GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
Appendix IX

Comments From the General Services
Administration




See pp. 26-27.




                 Page 96     GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
Appendix IX
Comments From the General Services
Administration




Page 97                              GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
Appendix X

Major Contributors to This Report


                        Gerald Stankosky, Assistant Director, Government Business Operations
General Government      Issues
Division, Washington,   John F. Mortin, Assignment Manager
D.C.                    William J. Dowdal, Senior Evaluator
                        David E. Sausville, Senior Evaluator
                        Martin H. de Alteriis, Senior Social Science Analyst


                        Sherrill H. Johnson, Assistant Director, Government Business Operations
Dallas Field Office,    Issues
Dallas, Texas           James G. Cooksey, Evaluator-in-charge
                        J. Paul Rodriguez, Senior Evaluator
                        Patricia Sari-Spear, Senior Evaluator
                        Dorothy M. Tejada, Evaluator
                        David W. Bennett, Evaluator




(240195)                Page 98                                  GAO/GGD-97-39 District Courtroom Use
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