Courthouse Virtual Tour
Courthouse Virtual Tour
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3rd Floor One of the busiest floors in the Courthouse!
This floor houses two of the more modern courtrooms, which belong to Senior Judge Donetta Ambrose and Chief Judge Gary Lancaster. Every court has a chief judge who, besides carrying a full load of cases, has additional administrative duties. By statute, the chief judge is the district judge in regular active service who is senior in commission to those judges who are 64 years of age or under, who has served for one year or more as a district judge, and who has not previously served as the chief judge. The appointment is for a minimum term of seven years, continuing until another judge becomes eligible to serve as the chief judge.


High Tech Courtroom

Senior Judge Ambrose was the first female chief judge of this Court. She began her term in 2002 and was replaced as Chief in 2009 by Judge Lancaster, who is this Court’s first African-American chief judge.

The area between Judge Ambrose’s courtroom and Chief Judge Lancaster’s courtroom serves many purposes. Besides being a waiting area for parties, the atrium has a unique tapestry that was commissioned as a part of the building’s renovation project. Each strand of the tapestry is either a hand-dyed silk cord or a painted linen thread that is woven together by computer technology. This area is also used for receptions and public functions, such as the installation of new judges and building re-dedication ceremonies.

As you walk down the hall, you’ll notice portraits of all of the judges who have served on this Court.

The third floor is also home to the Clerk of Court. The Clerk of Court’s Office is responsible for maintaining official court records, offering assistance to attorneys and the public, and managing various administrative activities that support the performance of the Court. Besides the main office here in Pittsburgh, there are divisional offices located in Erie and Johnstown.

Children Tapestry
Judge Photos

One of the activities that the Clerk supports is the Court’s Information Technology Department.
In the past, attorneys and the public have had to deliver a given document to the Clerk’s Office, where an employee would mark the document, put it on the official court record, called the docket, and pass it onto the judge for action. After the judge ruled on the document, the Clerk would then note that action on the docket and mail a copy of that order or decision to the parties.

In 2005, our Court, like all other federal courts in the country, began to file documents electronically. Attorneys can now file pleadings by logging onto a section of the Court’s website, e-mailing them to the Clerk’s Office and entering information that will appear on the docket. Once completed, an email is sent to all other counsel in the case, advising them of the filings and giving them a link to click in order to retrieve the documents. The Clerk’s IT Department maintains the evidence presentation equipment that is in all of the courtrooms.

IS Tech Support
Training room


Another responsibility of the Clerk is assembling jurors to hear trials and grand jury matters in this district. Lists of prospective jurors are compiled from the voter registration lists for the counties contained within our district. From those lists, names are randomly selected, and questionnaires are sent to the named individuals to see if they qualify for jury service. This process occurs every two (2) years and involves the mailing of nearly 60,000 questionnaires to residents of the district. From the responses to these questionnaires, a certain number of people will be excluded from jury service. Exclusions from jury service are given to people who are unable to understand English, people living outside of the area (such as college students), non-American citizens, and full-time public officials. Convicted felons, or people convicted of a crime punishable up to a year in prison, are disqualified from serving on juries. The individuals who qualify are each sent a summons, requiring him or her to appear on a particular date for jury selection. There are two (2) types of juries picked in this Court. The first is a jury to hear a trial, or a “petit” jury. In this Court, prospective petit jurors are “on call” for a two-week period, meaning that they will be randomly directed to report for selection of a jury in either a civil or criminal case. The other type of jury for which an individual can be selected is a “grand jury”. A grand jury is the type of jury which determines whether there is enough evidence for a criminal trial. Grand juries carry out this duty by examining evidence presented to them by a prosecutor (the United States Attorney) and issuing indictments.