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Federal Judicial Center Celebrates 50 Years: Publications

From its earliest years, the Center has been a respected, independent publisher within the judicial branch, disseminating its research reports and studies; educational handbooks, manuals, guides, and substantive legal monographs; and periodicals to judges, court personnel, and the broader legal community. Many Center publications are the result of research undertaken at the request of the Judicial Conference of the United States and its committees or are prepared at the suggestion of FJC education and research advisory committees. Some publications are mandated by Congress.

When publications are issued in hard copy they are printed through the U.S. Government Publishing Office. Most are also published in digital format. Occasionally, commercial publishers reprint FJC publications, enabling the work to reach wider audiences. Below is a sampling of publications that were issued during the FJC's first fifty years. 


  • The Third Branchthe official bulletin of the federal courts. It was a joint publication with the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts from 1968 to 1989. It reported matters of interest to the federal judiciary, such as legislation, new judicial techniques, Center publications, personnel actions, and upcoming meetings.

  • Benchbook for United States District Judges—first released in 1969 as an ongoing compilation of information for immediate bench or chambers reference. It contained sections on topics such as assignment of counsel, taking guilty pleas, model sentencing forms, standard voir dire questions, and oaths. Several new editions have since been published, and it remains popular today, particularly among new judges.​

  • Manual for Complex and Multidistrict Litigation (1969)—now universally known as the Manual for Complex Litigation (or MCL). Prepared by a board of editors appointed by the director of the Federal Judicial Center, the manual sought to preserve judges’ pretrial and trial experience gained in cases involving multidistrict and complex litigation. The­ manual was designed to provide guideposts to judges handling such litigation for the first time. Supplements to the manual were issued as Manual for Complex and Multidistrict Litigation Board Bulletins (1969). These brief bulletins contained summaries of opinions and orders concerning problems that occurred in complex and multidistrict litigation. Twenty-two issues of the bulletin, published from 1969 to 1970, reached practitioners through commercial publishers.


While innovations in emerging technologies featured prominently in publications that were issued during this decade, the FJC established itself as a publisher across a wide spectrum of topics.

  • Potential for Video Technology in the Courts (1972)—describes several uses for video technology in the judicial system. It discusses proscriptions against certain types of uses in federal courts, as well as those uses acceptable in the federal system. It analyzes factors that will affect the potential of video technology for improving court administration and notes special considerations that should precede widespread use. (Read more about the early use of video technology in the courts in the Videos section.)

  • Pilot Project on Communicating Automatic Typewriters: Evaluation Report (1973)—issued in response to concerns expressed about delay in transmission of proposed opinions and emergency motion papers among the widely scattered judges of the Temporary Court of Emergency Appeals (TCEA). The FJC conducted a pilot project experimenting with the use of IBM Magnetic Card Selectric Typewriters and Western Electric 103A Data-Set equipment with communication capabilities over telephone lines.

  • Guidelines for Pre-Recording Testimony on Videotape Prior to Trial (1974)—these guidelines were first devised for a pilot project in four U.S. district courts to evaluate the use of videotape, and to develop rules and procedures for the future use of videotape in the courts. The graphics in this publication are hand-drawn figures.

  • The Second Circuit Sentencing Study: A Report to the Judges of the Second Circuit (1974)—revealed substantial disparity in determining both the need for incarceration and the lengths of prison terms to be imposed. Matters of disparity and the effects of particular case characteristics are discussed.

  • Geographical Division of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals: An Historical Analysis (1974)—In 1975, the Commission on Revision of the Federal Court Appellate System, chaired by Senator Roman L. Hruska, recommended to the Congress, the President, and the Chief Justice of the United States that the geographical boundaries of the Fifth and Ninth Circuits be altered to create four circuits.This would be only the second time that the geographical boundaries would be altered since the creation of the then-existing federal circuit court system in 1891. This historical analysis was prepared as background material for the Commission, and is still considered by many to be the definitive work on the division of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eight Circuit.

  • Appellate Review of Trial Court Discretion (1975)—includes a discussion of types of cases in which judicial discretion—based on facts and guided by law—is applied in trial courts. It was presented at a seminar for federal appellate judges.

  • The Voir Dire Examination, Juror Challenges, and Adversary Advocacy (1978)—offers a broad review of the legal and psychological issues presented by the voir dire examination and subsequent challenges of prospective jurors. The discussion is organized under four headings: interests, criteria, parameters, and methodology.

  • The Impact of Word Processing and Electronic Mail on United States Courts of Appeals (1979)—describes the implementation in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals of a word-processing and electronic-mail network using Courtran computer resources, this report concludes that these technologies substantially reduce appellate processing time, improve secretarial and judicial productivity, and expedite delivery of correspondence to chambers and offices.​

  • Guidelines for Docketing Clerks: A Training and Reference Resource for Federal Docket Clerks (1979)—an outline of the general procedures and mechanics of effective civil and criminal docketing in the federal courts. It is designed for reference use by experienced docket clerks and as an aid in orienting and training new employees.


  • Experimentation in the Law: Report of the Federal Judicial Center Advisory Committee on Experimentation in the Law (1981)—examined the ethical and legal problems posed by experimentation with innovative programs and procedures in the justice system. The report offers guidance to justice system administrators to help ensure that needed experimentation is pursued in a manner commensurate with fundamental ideals of the system of justice.

  • Administrative Structures in Large District Courts (1981)—an early comparative analysis of management styles in the fifteen metropolitan district courts. The report is based on personal interviews with chief judges, clerks of court, and other judges and circuit personnel. It describes the many administrative tasks courts face and the various arrangements they have devised to perform those tasks.

  • Pattern Criminal Jury Instructions (1982)—prepared initially by a Federal Judicial Center committee in 1982 and revised in 1987 by the former Subcommittee on Pattern Jury Instructions of the former Judicial Conference Committee on the Operation of the Jury System. They have not been updated or revised; they include suggestions for drafters of jury instructions.

  • Business by Phone in the Federal Courts (1983)—discusses the use of teleconferences to conduct certain proceedings in federal courts based on reports of experienced judges.

  • Settlement Strategies for Federal District Judges (1986)—contains a discussion of various techniques for settlement, such as judicial mediation, court-annexed arbitration, the use of special masters, summary jury trials, minitrials, and settlement conferences conducted by magistrate judges. The report is based on a conference of judges experienced in different types of settlement, interviews with court personnel, and literature in the field.

  • Guideline Sentencing Update (1988–2002)—a newsletter with brief descriptions of cases, intended to inform judges and other judicial branch personnel of selected federal court decisions on the sentencing reform legislation of 1984 and 1987 and the Sentencing Guidelines. (Read More)

  • The Rule 11 Sanctioning Process (1988)—discusses the possible chilling effects and potential for creating satellite litigation of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11 (before the 1993 amendment that increased judges' discretion to impose sanctions). It also discusses the nature and adequacy of procedures used to implement the rule. The report is based on interviews with judges and lawyers in eight districts.​​

  • Managing Appeals in Federal Courts (1988)—an anthology of Center reports on handling appeals. The editors selected writings from the twenty-five published and unpublished reports on the topic the Center has supported in the previous fifteen years. Eighteen of theose reports are reprinted in whole or in part.

  • Handbook on Jury Use in the Federal District Courts (1989)—a manual that explains the basic concepts of administering federal juries. It describes statutory requirements, Judicial Conference policies, and various procedures used in the district courts. Although the handbook is intended primarily for jury staff, district judges who are assigned to serve as jury judges may find it informative.


  • The 1987 District Court Case Time Study: A Brief Description (1990)—In November 1987, the Federal Judicial Center commenced its third major "time study" in the U.S. district courts. Like studies conducted in 1969 and 1979, the purpose of the new study was to develop case "weights" for district court civil and criminal cases.Case weights reflect the difference in average judge time demanded by different types of cases (antitrust cases, for example, have a much higher weight than automobile personal injury cases). Totaling the weights assigned to all cases filed in a district in a particular year yields a measure of the total judicial workload in that district, the district's "weighted filings." Compared to a simple count of the number of cases filed, the weighted filing index is a superior statistical indicator of the burden imposed by a district's caseload.

  • Court-Annexed Arbitration in Ten District Courts (1990)—a statutorily mandated evaluation of the pilot court-annexed mandatory arbitration programs in ten federal district courts. The report examines how well the programs met various goals, focusing primarily on participants' responses to survey questions about fairness and reduction of cost, delay, and court burden. It also addresses how various program features affect goal achievement. 

  • Judicial Writing Manual (1991)—prepared to help judges organize opinions and improve their opinion writing. Drawing on interviews with twenty-four experienced judges, and guided by a board of editors comprising judges, law professors, and writers, the manual offers advice on writing tailored to the needs of the federal judiciary.

  • Judicial Evaluation Pilot Project of the Judicial Conference Committee on the Judicial Branch: A Report to the Committee (1991)—The Judicial Conference Committee on the Judicial Branch appointed a subcommittee to study judicial evaluations and make recommendations. The subcommittee chose to initiate a pilot project of voluntary, confidential evaluations with the specific goal of judicial self-improvement. This report was intended to provide useful information to members of the federal judiciary who wish to conduct similar evaluation programs.

  • Manual for Litigation Management and Cost and Delay Reduction (1992)—prepared in response to a mandate of the Civil Justice Reform Act of 1990, the manual offers judges an arsenal of management techniques for every phase of civil litigation. It includes forty-three sample forms experienced judges have found useful in their courts as well as an overview of case-management theory and practice. 

  • Court-Appointed Experts: Defining the Role of Experts Appointed Under Federal Rule of Evidence 706 (1993)—a study of why judges rarely appoint experts under Rule 706. In discussing this issue with judges, the authors learned of techniques and procedures that may aid judges when considering whether to appoint an expert or when managing an expert who has been appointed. 

  • State–Federal Judicial Observer—published from 1993–1999 as an occasional newsletter. It was issued by the Center's Interjudicial Affairs Office in accordance with the Center's statutory charge to further cooperation between the state and federal judiciaries. Issues covered a range of topics relating to judicial federalism and provided updates on active state–federal judicial councils.

  • Electronic Media Coverage of Federal Civil Proceedings: An Evaluation of the Pilot Program in Six District Courts and Two Courts of Appeals (1994)—an evaluation of the Judicial Conference's 1991–1993 pilot program allowing electronic media coverage of federal civil proceedings in six district and two appellate courts. The report, which was originally presented to the Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management, provides information concerning applications for coverage and proceedings actually covered, as well as a content analysis of news broadcasts incorporating such coverage. It summarizes results from surveys of judges and attorneys in the pilot courts; interviews with judges, court staff administrators, and media representatives; and state studies of the effects of electronic media presence on witnesses and jurors.

  • Studying the Role of Gender in the Federal Courts: A Research Guide (1995)—a research guide on how to do social science research, how to avoid the common pitfalls of analyzing data in a policy-charged environment, and how to work with social scientists who might provide assistance to courts. Although its emphasis is studying the role of gender, the guide should be helpful to those seeking a general introduction to social science methods used in related inquiries.

  • International Judicial Observer (1995–1997)—a tabloid, published by the Center in cooperation with the American Society of International Law, that covered international judicial issues.




  • Social Security Numbers in Federal Court Documents (2010)—a memorandum to the Privacy Subcommittee of the Judicial Conference Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure.

  • Jurors' Use of Social Media During Trials and Deliberations: A Report to the Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management (2011)—findings of a short survey of district court judges to assess the frequency with which jurors use social media to communicate about cases during trial and deliberation. The survey, conducted at the request of the Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management (CACM), also sought to identify strategies judges have found to be effective and appropriate in curbing this behavior. 

  • Bankruptcy Court Rules and Procedures Regarding Electronic Signatures of Persons Other than Filing Attorneys (2013)—the Center collected and reviewed local bankruptcy rules regarding signatures of non-registrants of CM/ECF (e.g., debtors) and requirements for retention of documents bearing original handwritten signatures of non-registrants. It contains a review of district court rules regarding signatures and retention, an OMB document on the use of electronic signatures in federal transactions, and the views of interested parties regarding potential rules changes in these areas. It was undertaken at the request of the Advisory Committee on Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure. 

  • Survey of Harm to Cooperators: Final Report (2016)—a survey of federal district judges, U.S. Attorney’s Offices, federal defenders, Criminal Justice Act (CJA) district panel representative’s offices, and chief probation and pretrial services offices about harm or threat of harm to government cooperators. Respondents reported a minimum of 571 instances of harm to defendants/offenders and witnesses in the past three years. Cases often involved harm to both defendants/offenders and witnesses. Respondents most often reported threats of physical harm to defendants/offenders or witnesses and to friends or family of defendants/offenders or witnesses. Undertaken at the request of the Court Administration and Case Management Committee, the Criminal Law Committee, and the Committee on Defender Service. 

  • Review of Scientific Literature on the Reliability of Present Sense Impressions and Excited Utterances (2016)—a review of scientific literature regarding the reliability of present sense impressions and excited utterances as it pertains to the Federal Rules of Evidence. This memorandum was presented to the Advisory Committee on Rules of Evidence.



  • Trade Secret Seizure Best Practices Under the Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 (2017)—a report, required by statute, about the Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 (DTSA), Pub. L. No. 114-153, which became law on May 11, 2016. It amends 18 U.S.C. § 1836 to create a private right of action for the misappropriation of trade secrets “for which any act occurs on or after the date of the enactment” and where the trade secrets “[are] related to [] product[s] or service[s] used in, or intended for use in, interstate or foreign commerce.”  The DTSA directs that, not later than two years after the date of enactment of the Act, the Federal Judicial Center, "using existing resources, shall develop recommended best practices for (1) the seizure of information and media storing the information; and (2) the securing of the information and media once seized."