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Federal Judicial Center Celebrates 50 Years: Videos

Video production is an integral part of the Federal Judicial Center's educational programs. In fact, the idea was raised within two years of the FJC's inception. The development of a television facility and video production capacity was mentioned in November 1969, when an education and training update received by the FJC Board included the observation:

Such a studio would require television cameras and a tape recorder. Once a videotape program has been produced, it can be played back on a similar tape recorder anywhere in the country. Duplicate tapes can be made at nominal cost. It is proposed initially to install eleven of these videotape machines monitors, one in each of the eleven Circuit Courts.

The Food and Drug Administration had offered the FJC access to its “19 such machines installed throughout the United States.”

Courts turned to the newly established FJC to see if video technology could be used to improve case management and the administration of justice. In December 1970, the Third Circuit asked the FJC to support an "experiment" in the use of video equipment and leased telephone lines to allow attorneys located in a studio in Pittsburgh to argue before a panel of circuit judges sitting in a courtroom in Philadelphia. Its success helped lay the foundation for future productions. 

From 1971 to 1973, the FJC established videotaping capabilities for expert witness depositions in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. The judges of that court enthusiastically adopted this method for eliminating delay in trials caused by the unavailability of expert witnesses. The court established a policy stating that the unavailability of an expert witness would not be accepted as grounds for a continuance because the videotaping equipment was available to record the testimony prior to the trial, or, on occasion, in the evening while trial is in progress. In June 1973, the first of two videotape training workshops for deputy clerks was held to provide personnel in four pilot districts with the skills required to pre-record testimony and to play back the resulting videotape at trial. In 1974, the Center published guidelines for pre-recording testimony on videotape prior to trial.

In 1973, the FJC was asked by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to administer one of its Court Reporter Qualifications Tests to fifteen applicants for a position open in that court. This was the first test of its kind presented via videotape. The videotape was produced at the Center on May 1 and used for the test on May 5 in a courtroom in the D.C. Court. This technique ensured test accuracy and standardization and reduced logistical costs.

During the 1970s, the use of videotapes and audiocassettes recorded during education programs– and duplicated to reach wider audiences – evolved from a small-scale, experimental project to a well-developed, audio-visual complement to structured training courses. The recordings were also available on demand to judges and court staff through an audiovisual media library. In November 1979, the FJC acquired video-editing software and hardware, giving it the ability to script and produce broadcast-quality, color video cassettes in-house for the first time. By the end of the 1970s, more than 50% of judicial officers and court personnel were able to watch the FJC's video recordings either individually or as part of organized education programs.

In the early 1980s, distance education continued to expand through new applications of educational media and technology. Video orientation programs proved to be cost-effective, and experimentation with teleconferencing began. By 1983, the FJC was recording orientation seminars for magistrate and bankruptcy judges and sending those recordings to subsequent new judges. A video orientation seminar would bring together four or five new judges who sat in close proximity to watch videotapes of prior orientation seminars under the mentorship of an experienced judge. Eventually, recordings of prior seminars were replaced by an FJC-produced video orientation series for new judges. Significant travel cost savings were realized and the funds were able to be reallocated to provide advanced programs for experienced judges.

In April 1998, the Federal Judicial Television Network (FJTN) was launched in partnership with the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts and the U.S. Sentencing Commission. The satellite broadcast network grew to include approximately 300 downlink sites, making it the federal government's second-largest civilian, private broadcasting network. Recordings were available on DVD, and beginning in 2006, as streaming video.

The Center now regularly produces videos for judges and court attorneys on case management, on ethics and codes of conduct, and on substantive legal topics. Videos on management and leadership are produced for court executives and managers, often as online, interactive, e-learning modules. Many videos are webcast live across the judiciary's intranet, and most are made available online for viewers to watch at their convenience.

Since June 2010, the Center has been a contributor to the U.S. Court's YouTube channel, which was established by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts on behalf of the federal judiciary.

Sample videos are available below.


Vaccine Injury Program and the U.S. Court of Federal Claims – February 2015




Court to Court: Limited Scope Pro Bono Representation for Pro Se Litigants – March 2017




The Patent Process: An Overview for Jurors – November 2013



Supreme Court: The Term in Review (2008-2009) Part 1 of 2 – May 2010