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Court Officers and Staff: Counselor to the Chief Justice

In 1972 Congress authorized the Chief Justice of the United States to appoint an administrative assistant. Chief Justice Fred Vinson in 1946 hired an administrative assistant, without statutory authorization for the position. His successors did not continue the practice, relying instead on the clerk of the Supreme Court and on senior staff within the Administrative Office of the United States Courts (which was located in the Supreme Court building until the late 1960s).

In 1972 Chief Justice Warren Burger asked Congress to authorize an administrative assistant, who, according to the subsequent statute (86 Stat. 46), serves at the pleasure of the Chief Justice and performs such duties as may be assigned by the Chief. Congress in 2008 changed the title of the position from administrative assistant to Counselor. Unlike the Court's clerk, marshal, reporter, and librarian, the Counselor is not an officer of the Court, but serves as the Chief Justice's personal aide. Congress has denominated the position of director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, director of the Federal Judicial Center, and the Counselor to the Chief Justice as "office[s] of Federal judicial administration" (28 U.S.C. 133(b)(2)). As of July 2009, eight individuals have held the position of Counselor to the Chief Justice.

The Counselor helps the Chief Justice in various tasks related to the Chief's role as head of the judicial branch of government, as well as the nonjudicial administrative responsibilities that fall to the chief judicial officer of the Supreme Court. The Counselor supports the Chief Justice in the performance of the Chief's statutory duties relating to the Smithsonian Institution's Board of Regents. The Counselor also monitors developments in the field of judicial administration and court reform and provides research for the Chief Justice's public statements. The current provision relating to the appointment, duties, and compensation of the Counselor is 28 U.S.C 677.