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Court Officers and Staff: Judges’ Secretaries

For much of the history of the judiciary, federal judges carried out their duties with no administrative support staff. The Justices of the Supreme Court were authorized in 1886 to hire clerical assistants known as "stenographers." More than fifty years later, in 1938, Congress appropriated funds for "Miscellaneous salaries" and the hiring of similar staff by judges of the circuit and district courts (52 Stat. 268). Congress replaced the term "stenographer" with "secretary" two years later and in 1947, at the request of the Judicial Conference, authorized all circuit and district judges to appoint a secretary. The following year the authorization was changed to allow federal judges to appoint all "necessary" secretaries and law clerks. In 1959 the total number of these appointees was made subject to "any limitation on the aggregate salaries of such employees which may be imposed by law" (73 Stat. 452). The duties of the secretaries of federal judges, like those of judicial law clerks, have been defined by the individual judges for whom they have worked rather than by statute.