The emergency preparedness of the federal court system was a primary theme of Chief Justice John Roberts Jr.’s year-end report on the federal judiciary. The good news is that the courts are on top of this: The Emergency Management and Preparedness Branch of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts assists courts in developing their emergency preparedness plans and conducting drills. Its Judiciary Emergency Response Team does exactly what its title implies—it provides logistics for courts facing an emergency.
“All courts of the United States shall be deemed always open for the purpose of filing proper papers, issuing and returning process, and making motions and orders.”
Of course, court buildings must be kept secure during an emergency, but, in addition, arrangements have to be made for people subject to the courts’ continuing jurisdiction, such as people who have served their prison terms but who are out on supervised release. During last year’s hurricanes, the Probation and Pretrial Services Office of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts helped track people and responded to location monitoring alerts when local staff became unavailable.
The executive branch of the federal government is also involved in providing assistance to the judicial branch. The General Services Administration manages courthouse, and the U.S. Marshals Service provides security for judges and staff. In his year-end report. Roberts thanked both entities for their help during the emergencies experienced last year.
Roberts also addressed the issue of workplace sexual harassment and announced that a working group will be set up to assess the federal court system’s practices in this area and to determine whether changes need be made.
Roberts also noted that in the 12 months ending on Sept. 30, 2017, the number of cases filed in federal courts had decreased.
The federal court system employs some 30,000 people.