FJSA Letter to JAs

Dear Colleague:

          Are you concerned about your position as a Judicial Assistant with the federal courts?  Are you feeling overworked and underappreciated?  Are you wondering if anyone even recognizes the contributions your make in support of the mission of the federal courts?

          If you answered "yes" to even one of those questions I'd encourage you to keep reading.

          As most of you know, the very nature of the way the federal courts operate is undergoing tremendous change.  The implementation of CM/ECF has altered chambers operations and has caused many judges to reevaluate teh utilizaton of chambers' staff.  Additionally, the judiciary is being challenged to provide the same high level of public service in the face of a nationwide budget crisis.

          And so you ask, "What does that have to do with me?"  Consider the following:

  1. The workload in some chambers has doubled with the implementation of CM/ECF.
  2. Most judges recognize the increase in chambers' case management responsibilities.
  3. Law clerks, once primarily research and writing assistants to the judge, have been assuming more administrative duties related to case management.
  4. Judges have the option to replace a judicial assistant with a law clerk.
  5. Law clerks have been replacing judicial assistants at an alarming rate across the nation, particularly at the Magistrate Judge level.
  6. The judiciary is in the midst of the Court Compensation Study.  The study is assessing job performance in relation to compensation.

          And now you're asking, "What can I do?"

          First of all, change the "I" to "We".  There are approximately 1500 federal judicial assistants.  This isn't about "your job" - it's about "our jobs."  We do have a voice through the Federal Judges Secretaries Association - the FJSA.  In fact, through the efforts of FJSA, two Judicial Assistants1 participated in a recent meeting of the to the Court Compensation Study Judges Working Group.  Judge Royal Furgeson, Chair of the Judicial Resources Committee, invited teh FJSA to appoint two members to address this group of judges on concerns facing today's judicial assistant as it relates to the Court Compensation Study.2  To say that this invitation was unprecedented is an understatement.  No other group of corut employees was represented at this meeting.

          There is much to be accomplished and the task at hand is not an easy one.  But there is strength in numbers and much to be gained by presenting a united front.  If there was ever a time to step forward and be counted, it is now.  The FJSA has given JAs a voice that is being heard for the first time - how effective that voice is, depends on you.  Current membership is less than one-third of all judicial assistants employed by the judiciary.  In fact. one of the concerns expressed by the CCS Judges Working Group was how few JAs were represented by the FJSA.

          The Federal Judges Secretaries Association needs YOU!  This is a time of great change - JAs can be a part of making positive changes or we can be left behind inthe dust.  Satand up and be counted with an FJSA membership!

Respectfully submitted,

Marlene Stidham, Chair

FJSA Legislative Committee