James Duff, director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts—the management arm of the federal courts—will resign this summer to become president and chief executive officer of the Freedom Forum.
The Freedom Forum is a non-partisan private foundation dedicated to improving understanding of the First Amendment and the Constitution. The Freedom Forum funds the Newseum, a Washington, D.C.-based interactive museum of history, news and technology, and the First Amendment Center and the Diversity Institute at Vanderbilt University.
Duff, appointed AO director by Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., took office on July 1, 2006. In a statement on Tuesday, Roberts said, "Jim is widely respected throughout the federal courts; his work has always reflected his deep commitment to ensuring that the federal judiciary has the administrative support to enable it to fulfill its vital role under the Constitution. I will miss his wise counsel.”
As AO director, Duff oversees and coordinates an annual budget of $7 billion, supporting 35,000 employees nationwide, and serves as secretary to the Judicial Conference of the United States—the policymaking arm of the judicial branch—and as a member of the Board of the Federal Judicial Center.
Duff has served under three chief justices: as AO director under Chief Justice Roberts; as administrative assistant (now called “counselor to the chief justice”) to Chief Justice William Rehnquist from 1996-2000, serving as the chief of staff at the Supreme Court and liaison to the other two branches of government; and as an office and courtroom assistant to Chief Justice Warren Burger from 1975-1979, while attending law school at Georgetown University Law Center.
Before becoming AO director, Duff was managing partner in the Washington office of Baker Donelson, where he served as counsel and secretary to the Freedom Forum. Earlier in his career, he had a litigation and legislative practice for 12 years at Clifford & Warnke where he became a partner.
“It has been a privilege to serve the Third Branch, and I look forward to educating the public in my new position about our important constitutional freedoms the courts have helped protect,” said Duff in a statement.
Duff's departure date is uncertain, according to an AO spokesman.