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Reference Manuals

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The Benchbook is an ongoing compilation of information that federal judges have found useful for immediate bench or chambers reference in civil and criminal proceedings. It contains sections on such topics as assignment of counsel, taking guilty pleas, standard voir dire questions, sentencing, and contempt. The sixth edition, published March 2013, adds new sections on disclosure of exculpatory information under Brady v. Maryland, civil case management, and restraint of dangerous defendants (“shackling”). Also included are a complete revision of the sentencing section that now provides a sample sentencing “script” for judges to follow, Padilla-based warnings to non-citizen and sex offense defendants, and updated jury instructions that deal with jurors’ use of social media and electronic devices. The Benchbook is prepared under the guidance of experienced district judges and may be used on-line, downloaded to a computer or other electronic device, or printed out in loose-leaf format.
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This is a comprehensive, user-friendly, and practical judicial guide for managing patent cases. Although similar in many respects to other forms of complex civil litigation, patent cases pose distinctive case management challenges, including complex and dynamic technological facts to a degree rarely encountered in most other areas of litigation, and unique procedures (such as claim construction hearings) that affect and interact with other aspects of the case (such as summary judgment motions and expert reports). In addition, patent cases often entail distinctive and difficult discovery issues, extensive use of experts, and particularly complex dispositive and pretrial motion practice. The authors surveyed federal judges and describe their approaches and best practices for these and other aspects of patent case management.

Initially posted as a draft, this second edition was not printed in book format. Superseded by Patent Case Management Judicial Guide, Third Edition (2016).

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The Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence, Third Edition assists judges in managing cases involving complex scientific and technical evidence by describing the basic tenets of key scientific fields from which legal evidence is typically derived and by providing examples of cases in which that evidence has been used.

First published in 1994 by the Federal Judicial Center, the Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence has been relied upon in the legal and academic communities and is often cited by various courts and others. Judges faced with disputes over the admissibility of scientific and technical evidence refer to the manual to help them better understand and evaluate the relevance, reliability and usefulness of the evidence being proffered. The manual is not intended to tell judges what is good science and what is not. Instead, it serves to help judges identify issues on which experts are likely to differ and to guide the inquiry of the court in seeking an informed resolution of the conflict.

The core of the manual consists of a series of chapters (reference guides) on various scientific topics, each authored by an expert in that field. The topics have been chosen by an oversight committee because of their complexity and frequency in litigation. Each chapter is intended to provide a general overview of the topic in lay terms, identifying issues that will be useful to judges and others in the legal profession. They are written for a non-technical audience and are not intended as exhaustive presentations of the topic. Rather, the chapters seek to provide judges with the basic information in an area of science, to allow them to have an informed conversation with the experts and attorneys. 

The Federal Judicial Center distributes hard copies of the third edition of Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence to federal judges. The public may purchase copies from the National Academies Press©, 500 Fifth Street, N.W., Lockbox 285, Washington, DC 20055; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313 (in the Washington metropolitan area); or

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This report details the varying appellate practices and procedures of the U.S. courts of appeals within the generally uniform appellate scheme imposed by the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure. Part I of the report highlights key variations from court to court; Part II describes in detail the case management procedures of each court.

The caseload data included in this report were collected in December 2010. More recent data are available at

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Federal judges play an important role in many international rule of law projects carried out by the United States government. They provide commentary on constitutional law issues, assist with the drafting of judicial ethics codes, advise foreign judges on court management, and assist judicial councils with strategic planning. This guide, prepared by Shawna Wilson, Supreme Court Fellow at the Federal Judicial Center 2008-2009, provides an overview of how the U.S. government funds, designs, manages, and coordinates its rule of law initiatives, and describes the maze of U.S. agencies and programs in this field.

In Print: Available for Distribution

This manual provides trial judges a handbook on managing civil cases. It sets out a wide array of case-management techniques, beginning with early case screening and concluding with steps for streamlining trials and final disposition. It also discusses a number of special topics, including pro se and high visibility cases, the role of staff, and automated programs that supports case management. This new edition incorporates statutory and rules changes and contains updated advice on electronic case management, electronic discovery, and ways of containing costs and expediting cases. The manual, which was produced and is being updated pursuant to a requirement set forth in the Civil Justice Reform Act of 1990, is based on the experiences of federal district and magistrate judges and reflects techniques they have developed. It was prepared under the direction of the Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management, with substantial contributions from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts and the Federal Judicial Center, and was approved by the Judicial Conference in March 2010. This new edition supersedes the first edition (2001) and the Manual for Litigation Management and Cost and Delay Reduction (1992).

Note: Appendices A and C of the manual including sample procedures and guidelines, orders, and other materials are only available on line and are not included in the printed manual.

Appendix A: Sample Forms 1-53 (see below)

Appendix B: Guidelines for Ensuring Fair and Effective Court-Annexed ADR, Court Administration and Case Management Committee (see Manual, p. 173)

Appendix C: Sample CM/ECF Reports (see below)

Appendix D: Bibliography (see Manual, p. 189)

Appendix E: Table of Statutes and Acts (see Manual, p. 199)

Appendix F: Table of Rules (see Manual, p. 201)

In Print: Available for Distribution

This guide describes the records of the federal courts, as well as records of Congress and the executive branch, that are relevant to researching federal judicial history. Note: Minor updates may occasionally be made to this document. Please consult the electronic version for the most current information.


In Print: Available for Distribution

The Manual on Recurring Problems in Criminal Trials (6th ed.) outlines the law governing many of the specific issues and procedural matters that arise frequently in criminal trials. The Sixth Edition added new material and revised the organization and format to enhance usability. Among the topics covered are pro se representation, jury-related matters, disclosure, evidentiary issues, contempt, confessions, and multiple defendants. Circuit splits are also noted. The Manual has been updated to include cases decided during the Supreme Court's October 2009 Term, and district and appellate case summaries through July 1, 2010.

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Cases related to terrorism often pose unusual and challenging case-management issues for the courts. Evidence or arguments may be classified; witnesses or the jury may require special security measures; attorneys' contacts with their clients may be diminished; other challenges may present themselves.

The purpose of this Federal Judicial Center resource is to document methods federal judges have employed to meet these challenges so that judges facing the challenges can learn from their colleagues' experiences. The information presented is based on a review of case files and news media accounts and on interviews with the judges.

Superseded by National Security Case Studies: Special Case-Management Challenges (2011).

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This guide covers management of cases involving federal habeas corpus review of state and federal capital convictions. It is meant to assist judges and court staff by providing a summary of relevant law and case-management procedures used by the federal courts in these cases. Although information in the guide is generally current to the revision date that follows the title, some portions may become dated as case law develops and new approaches emerge to managing federal death penalty cases.

This is the second part of a two-volume resource guide for managing capital cases in the federal courts. For the first volume, see Resource Guide for Managing Capital Cases, Volume I: Federal Death Penalty Trials.


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