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Bankruptcy judges will soon feel America’s proverbial belt-tightening in the courthouse.
This week, the Judicial Conference of the United States adopted a courtroom sharing policy for bankruptcy judges in new courthouse and courtroom construction. In court facilities with three or more bankruptcy judges, one courtroom will be provided for every two bankruptcy judges. In those facilities with an odd number of bankruptcy judges, the number of courtrooms allotted will remain at the next lower whole number.
While the courtroom sharing policy will reduce the number of courtrooms constructed, government reports indicate that reduced construction will not impair access to bankruptcy courts.
This isn't the first time the Conference has explored courtroom sharing; it adopted a courtroom sharing policy for senior district judges in new construction in 2008, and for magistrate judges in 2009.
The courtroom sharing initiative is part of a cost-saving measure to reduce new courthouse construction costs. A 2000 Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report noted that, on average, courtrooms were in use only 54 percent of available workdays.
Ten years later, following a steep decline in government revenue, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that the judiciary branch had 26 percent fewer judges than it estimated 10 years before, resulting in 23 courthouses with extra rooms and chambers.
A forward-looking courtroom sharing policy combats the problem by adjusting prospective courthouse construction budgets to optimize courtroom use.
The 26-member Judicial Conference is the policy-making body for the federal court system. The Chief Justice serves as its presiding officer. Its members are the chief judges of the 13 courts of appeals, a district judge from each of the 12 geographic circuits, and the chief judge of the Court of International Trade.
The Conference meets twice a year to consider administrative and policy issues affecting the court system, and to make recommendations to Congress concerning legislation involving the Judicial Branch.