JUDICIAL CONFERENCE OF THE UNITED STATES
JUDGE JANE R. ROTH
U.S. COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:
I appreciate the opportunity to testify in my capacity as the chairman of the Judicial Conference=s Committee on Security and Facilities. Chairman Inhofe, I look forward to working with you, Senator Baucus, the other members of the Subcommittee, and your staffs in the future.
On behalf of the entire judiciary, I would like to express our appreciation for the authorizations of courthouse projects that this Subcommittee recommended and the full Committee approved last year. Unfortunately, not all these projects have received appropriations yet. We hope to get those much needed projects funded and moving ahead this year.
FY 2002 Courthouse Program
President Bush=s FY 2002 budget request includes $216.8 million for courthouse construction projects and $130.3 million for court-related repair and alteration projects. The Subcommittee=s letter to the White House in support of funding for courthouse construction was very helpful in achieving this result. While the judiciary appreciates the fact that some courthouse construction funding was included in the Administration=s budget request, the Judicial Conference proposes 20 projects for funding in FY 2002 at a total cost of approximately $665 million.
The judiciary supports the President=s budget request for courthouse projects. The Committee on Environment and Public Works has previously provided authorizations for 11 of the 12 courthouse construction projects in the President=s budget request. Some of the projects are on the judiciary=s prioritized list for FY 2002 and some are from previous years and may need to have their authorizations increased for inflation.
There are also nine new projects not included in the President=s budget which the judiciary supports for FY 2002: Rockford, Illinois; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Nashville, Tennessee; Savannah, Georgia; Fort Pierce, Florida; Jackson, Mississippi; Austin, Texas; San Diego, California; and San Jose, California. The Senate has already provided authorizations for four of these projects, although these resolutions may need to be increased now to match GSA=s latest estimates due to inflation. In past years, the Committee has requested 11(b) studies for projects which were not included in the President=s budget. We urge the Subcommittee to make a similar request this year. I have attached a chart to this statement that summarizes the judiciary=s FY 2002 plan and the President=s budget request.
We understand from GSA that three projects might be delayed until next year due to circumstances beyond the judiciary=s or GSA=s control. These projects, in Salt Lake City, Utah; Cape Girardeau, Missouri; and Orlando, Florida, could be authorized in a future year. Two other projects, Eugene, Oregon and Little Rock, Arkansas, are not ready for construction funding as anticipated, but do need additional site and/or design money this year. The requests for additional site and design money for Eugene and Little Rock are included in the President=s budget request for FY 2002.
The Judicial Conference also supports construction of a federal office building to house the court of appeals staff and potentially other federal agencies in Atlanta, Georgia.
Some FY 2002 Courthouses Have Special Requirements
The judiciary is in disagreement with OMB=s unilateral decision to eliminate small amounts of space which the judiciary needs due to special requirements in some courts. Our planning guidelines are intended to recognize that some courts operate differently from others and handle different types of cases. For example, for some projects on our FY 2002 list, the judicial councils of the various circuits have determined that a senior judge will need exclusive use of a courtroom for longer than ten years. Such special requirements result in minor increases in square footage and minimal costs in the long term. The judiciary plans to use these courthouses for decades into the future; shortsightedly making them smaller than needed will only necessitate the judiciary returning to Congress to request additions to relatively new courthouses at greater expense to taxpayers. We hope you will authorize the projects based on the requirements submitted by the courts. Details of these changes will be provided to Subcommittee staff.
An example of the problems caused when a facility is built smaller than needed is the Brooklyn, New York courthouse annex. Additional funding is needed to build out a total of eight courtrooms and eight chambers in the annex as planned and authorized to accommodate the judges that will be working when the annex opens and to permit the planned renovation of the existing courthouse. The judiciary urges the Subcommittee to ensure that GSA constructs the necessary space. If this is not done, the new building will be full on the day it opens, and indeed the entire complex may not be able to accommodate the court when the annex opens. In our view, responsible planning and responsible spending justifies further action by the Subcommittee to complete this important project. I will submit for the record a separate statement by Judge Raymond Dearie of the Eastern District of New York which elaborates on the serious housing problem that will be created if GSA does not build enough space in Brooklyn.
The Project Backlog
Ten years ago, the judiciary, Congress, and the GSA embarked on a construction program to replace court facilities. Some existing courthouses are at full capacity with no room for expansion. Most are aged and obsolete, cannot provide adequate security, and cannot accommodate emerging technology. Due to a lack of funding, the program is now seriously behind schedule. In fiscal years 1998 through 2000, the previous Administration did not include any funding for courthouses in its budget request. In FY 2001, the Administration included funding in its budget for only 7 of the 21 courthouses approved by the Judicial Conference. Congress has appropriated funds for courthouse construction only twice in the last four years. This has created the backlog.
Delayed funding of courthouse projects can result in significant cost increases. Although GSA has estimated that construction costs were increasing an average of 3-4 percent for each year of delay, there have been some situations where escalation factors have been significantly higher. As a result, had the 20 projects the judiciary supports in FY 2002 been built when they were originally scheduled, the projected costs would have been approximately $50 million lower than they are today due to inflation.
Need For New Courthouses
In spite of these delays, the workload of the federal courts continues to increase, necessitating additional judges and court staff. In the last ten years, criminal cases have increased 32 percent, civil cases have increased 20 percent, and bankruptcy filings have increased 68 percent. Congress provided nine new federal district judgeships in FY 2000 and ten more in FY 2001. The Judicial Conference of the United States is currently requesting that 54 more Article III judgeships be created. Furthermore, about 127,000 persons are under the supervision of the judiciary=s probation and pretrial services officers. These officers need space to conduct drug testing and to hold meetings with those under supervision.
Many of the courthouses in use today are more than 50 years old and do not meet the needs of a modern-day justice system. A major problem is security for the jurors, witnesses, court employees, judges and the public. Oftentimes, the courthouses lack separate routes of circulation so that prisoners are transported through the same areas and elevators as judges, jurors and members of the public. Some courthouses do not have holding cells adjacent to courtrooms or sally ports for bringing prisoners into the courthouses in a secure manner. The courthouses frequently have operational problems such as inadequate heating and ventilation systems and electrical systems that are incompatible with modern technology requirements. For example, in some older courthouses, the infrastructure will not allow the wiring necessary for courtroom technologies such as video evidence presentation systems, videoconferencing systems, and electronic methods of taking the record, which will streamline trials and improve the quality of justice.
A courthouse project is not proposed for consideration unless the district=s long-range facility plan indicates that there is no more room for judges in the existing facility. Usually this determination is made after all executive branch agencies and court-related units (probation, pretrial services, and the bankruptcy court) have been moved from the existing building. Therefore, the projects on the judiciary=s Five-Year Plan are urgently needed when they are placed on the plan and delays only exacerbate operational problems. We have provided Subcommittee staff with a fact sheet on each courthouse project that describes the current housing situation and the need for a project at that location.
The judiciary=s problems are particularly acute along the southwest border, where drug and immigration enforcement efforts have caused the workload to more than double and where proximity to the Mexican border magnifies security risks. Three of the 20 courthouse projects requested for FY 2002 are located along the southwest border. We have provided copies of a video on the southwest border court problems to Committee staff. I would like to have shown it to the Subcommittee as part of my testimony today, but time constraints have made that impossible. I urge you, however, to take the time to view it in the near future.
The federal judiciary, working with GSA, has taken many steps to economize and ensure better management of the courthouse construction program without sacrificing functionality. The courthouse construction process has become increasingly rigorous, disciplined and structured over the past several years as a result of these actions.
On the recommendation of the National Academy of Public Administration, the judiciary began its long-range facilities planning process in 1988. The objective of the planning process is to determine the ability of existing facilities to meet the judiciary=s projected future space needs. The planning process was designed to provide the judiciary with a systematic, apolitical method of identifying and defining the need for new courthouse projects. In January 2001, the General Accounting Office issued a very positive report to Congress about the judiciary=s long-range planning process. In May 2000, the consulting firm of Ernst & Young, which was retained by the judiciary to study the courthouse program, found that the facilities planning process has been effective. The judiciary received GSA=s Annual Achievement Award for Real Property Innovation for the long range planning process in 1998.
In 1993, GSA instituted a benchmarking process to evaluate the cost of proposed new construction projects and to help identify potential savings. Baseline benchmarks were established for federal courthouses based on industry data. The benchmarks are then adjusted for project specific conditions such as costs for seismic construction and geographic location. For example, a benchmark would suggest a range of acceptable costs for a courthouse project in Washington, DC from $145 to $170 per square foot in 1993 dollars. The benchmarks have been adjusted over time to incorporate security construction criteria adopted by GSA subsequent to the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City and to accommodate technological advancements. GSA uses benchmarks to compare costs of Federal construction with private sector buildings and to compare courthouse projects nationwide. Construction cost estimates are now based on the benchmarks.
In 1996, at the urging of Congress, the judiciary began prioritizing courthouse construction projects against defined criteria. The judiciary uses a scoring system to develop an annual, prioritized Five-Year Courthouse Project Plan. Congress uses the scoring system and the Five-Year Plan to allocate resources for courthouse construction, funding permitting. Ernst & Young found that the scoring process was logical and appropriately focused on facilitating judicial functions. The scoring criteria take into account security problems; building conditions; the number of judges affected by a lack of space; and the length of time the facility has not been able to accommodate additional judges.
Courthouse construction conforms to the U.S. Courts Design Guide, which identifies the functional requirements for courthouses. The 1997 edition incorporates new criteria in response to economic constraints. In 1997, a cost estimating consultant determined that these changes would result in an average of five percent savings in the cost of projects. These changes include:
prohibiting the use of exotic hardwoods; encouraging GSA=s private sector design architects to develop a selection of finishes that responds to construction cost limitations, optimizes long-term value, and satisfies functional requirements; defining in greater detail the amount of circulation areas needed in order to limit this space; prohibiting architects or court staff from adding spaces not contemplated in design; and encouraging shared use of space common to all court offices, such as conference and training rooms.
The judiciary is truly grateful for the resources provided for the courthouse construction program so far. However, recent delays in courthouse funding have created a backlog of facilities that need replacement. The judiciary has outgrown these facilities and they suffer from serious security and infrastructure problems. Improvements made to the planning process and design standards over the years help to ensure that the courthouse program meets the judiciary=s workload needs in an economical and functional manner. Therefore, the judiciary asks that you authorize, in accordance with the judiciary=s stated needs, the new courthouse projects on the attached list that have not already been authorized or that need their authorizations increased.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify before the Subcommittee. I would be pleased to answer any questions you might have at this time.
The Judicial Conference of the United States is the judiciary=s policy-making body.
The judiciary determined this amount by applying a factor for inflation to previous GSA estimates.
Senior judges are those judges who are eligible to retire but who continue to try cases.
Judicial Branch Courthouse Construction Program for FY 2002
(Dollars in Millions)
Project (In Priority Project Phase Amount Recommended Amount Requested in
Order Approved by on Judiciary’s by the Judiciary President’s Budget
Judicial Conference) Plan in FY 2002
(From Previous Plans)
Brooklyn, NY Design & Construct $32.000 $3.361*
Washington, DC Construction 6.595 6.595
Buffalo, NY Site & Design 0.716 0.716
Springfield, MA Design & Construct 6.473 6.473
Miami, FL Construction 15.000 0
(On FY 2002 Plan)
1. Fresno, CA Construction $121.2 $121.225
2. Erie, PA Construction 30.7 30.739
3. Eugene, OR Construction 75.2 4.470 **
4. El Paso, TX Site & Design 11.1 11.193
5. Mobile, AL Site & Design 11.3 11.290
6. Norfolk, VA Site & Design 11.8 11.609
7. Las Cruces, NM Design 4.1 4.110
8. Salt Lake City, UT Construction 76.5 0 ***
9. Little Rock, AR Design & Construct 75.0 5.022 **
10. Rockford, IL Site & Design 4.9 0
11. Cedar Rapids, IA Site & Design 15.1 0
12. Nashville, TN Site & Design 14.3 0
13. Savannah, GA Construction 46.5 0
14. Fort Pierce, FL Site & Design 4.5 0
15. Jackson, MS Site & Design 12.3 0
16. Austin, TX Site & Design 8.5 0
17. San Diego, CA Design 14.3 0
18. Cape Girardeau, MO Construction 36.9 0 ***
19. Orlando, FL Construction 71.3 0 ***
20. San Jose, CA Site & Design 19.4 0
* Only a portion of this money is for the new courthouse annex, with the remainder to be spent on design of U.S. Attorney space in the General Post Office. GSA’s prospectus does not specify how the funding request is to be divided.
** These funds are for additional site and/or design only and do not include construction money as planned. A prolonged site selection process for the Eugene project and a change in design plans for the Little Rock project resulted in their not being ready for construction in FY 2002.
*** GSA indicates these projects may not be ready for any additional funding in FY 2002.