Chairman Goodlatte: America is a nation of laws and with laws come disputes and differences of opinion. The American people look to our Nation’s courts to be efficient, transparent, and fair arbiters for settling disputes when they arise.

To achieve these expectations, the Judiciary must efficiently administer justice, despite the fact that the Judiciary receives only a small portion of our Nation’s budget. As this Committee has seen previously in the disastrous GSA renovation of the Poff Courthouse in my hometown of Roanoke, and in other wasteful GSA expenditures, not all spending on judicial needs is directly within the Judiciary’s control. However, it is healthy for Congress, which has responsibility for authorizing funding for the Judiciary, to review spending by the Judiciary and have an opportunity to ask questions to assess the efficiency of that spending.

In addition to efficiency, the American people expect transparency with respect to judicial actions.  Transparency bolsters Americans’ trust in fair and independent judges who are above ethical reproach.

The PACER system helps to deliver transparency and has enabled anyone with an Internet connection to read court filings and decisions, much like THOMAS, the legislative search tool, allows the public to see what Members of Congress do on their behalf. However, THOMAS, unlike PACER, comes with no direct fee. To be sure, there is a budgetary cost to operating both THOMAS and PACER, but in today’s interconnected world, Americans’ increasingly demand access to information, including court documents, freely and without a direct surcharge.

Another possible way to deliver transparency is to allow Americans to watch court proceedings. Our hearing today is being webcast to anyone who wants to watch it, but hearings only a few blocks away at the District Court for the District of Columbia and the Supreme Court will never be seen by anyone. The idea of allowing cameras into our Nation’s courtrooms is not a new one, but I look forward to hearing more about this issue today.

In addition to the efficient and transparent administration of justice, the American people look to the Judicial Branch to be the fair arbiter of disputes that arise in civil and criminal contexts and expect impartial and ethical judges. While the vast majority of federal judges exercise their duties with the highest moral and ethical standards, regretfully, there have been recent situations in which federal judges have fallen short of these standards.

For example, one judge in Alabama abused his wife and then lied about it to his colleagues before he resigned under pressure. Another judge appears to have engaged in deplorable conduct before he became a federal judge, only to resign on disability days after widespread news stories appeared about his conduct.

To investigate ethical breaches like these, as well as to ensure that instances of fraud and waste are discovered and addressed, former Judiciary Committee Chairman Sensenbrenner and current Senate Judiciary Chairman Grassley have supported the creation of an Inspector General for the Judiciary. While the Judiciary has strongly resisted the creation of such an Inspector General, I look forward to exploring this idea further.

I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today about these and other issues concerning the operation of the Judiciary.