With the very real budget crisis facing the federal district courts, and the nuclear impact on key players like federal public defenders, it is worth at least mentioning two savings that could be easily achieved without any harm to the functioning of the federal district courts. However, to even speak of these two areas is to touch the third rails of judicial politics.
Electrified Rail One
We don’t need court reporters. Digital audio recording can easily replace court reporters. Various studies including a pilot project in a big federal district court and in a relatively small district court prove that digital audio recording could replace court reporters with no loss in accuracy while resulting in significantly lower cost and much greater transparency. There will be a legion of naysayers, but any honest look at the situation results in only one rational outcome: the federal district courts should move to eliminate court reporters (by attrition).
Electrified Rail Two
At the district level, did you know that there are two clerks of court? One serves the Article III district judges. The other serves the Article I bankruptcy judges. Both have their own staffs—from docket clerks, to IT staffs, to courtroom deputies, to administrative service staffs. If this duplication ever made sense, it makes none now. The federal district courts should move to consolidate the clerks of the district courts and the clerks of the bankruptcy courts.
I just touched the rails. I didn’t die.