The Politics of Federal Judicial Administration

Peter Fish
Princeton University Press
2015

Although administrative policy-making is overshadowed by the drama of judicial decision-making, it is a vital part of the judicial process. Peter Graham Fish examines the structure and legislative history of the various institutions of the federal judicial administration, their development, and their operation. He focuses on the lower courts to show that, although it is delimited by a network of formal institutions, the federal judicial administration is characterized by informality and voluntarism and depends, as he emphasizes, on the roles played by individual judges.

As administrators, judges become deeply involved in politics, and Peter Graham Fish concentrates on the politics of the national judicial administration. Within this framework he raises enduring issues: Shall local federal judges be wholly independent or must they conform to uniform standards of law and administration? Shall administration be separate and diffused or united and centralized? Shall politics be superior or subordinate to so-called standards of "'efficiency"? Shall the interests of trial judges prevail over or be subordinate to the regional and national interests of appellate judges? How shall money, manpower, jurisdictional, and structural changes be distributed among the courts? To what extent, if any, should judges modify their behavior or institutions to meet external criticism?

Originally published in 1973.