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Virtual Tour 3rd Floor

3rd Floor
One of the busiest floors in the Courthouse!

This floor houses two of the six modern courtrooms, which were constructed during the courthouse’s latest renovation.  Each of these recently constructed courtrooms are equipped with state-of-the-art technology, including video screen throughout the courtroom and jury box, touch-screen capable monitor for  witnesses and counsel, and an electronic evidence presentation system, which allows counsel to electronically display evidence for use in trials, hearings and other proceedings to the judge, witness, opposing counsel, and the jury.  These modern courtrooms also have a document camera, a DVD/VCR unit, onnections for laptop computers, video conferencing equipment and at least one 42” LCD Monitor.  Another feature of these new courtrooms is that they are all handicapped accessible.

The courtrooms on this floor have housed two of the court’s recent chief judges, Senior Judge Donetta W. Ambrose and the late Judge Gary L.  Lancaster. Senior Judge Ambrose was the first female chief judge of this Court and still maintains her chambers on this floor.  She began her term as Chief in 2002 and was succeeded in 2009 by Judge Lancaster, who was this Court’s first African-American chief judge. Judge Lancaster's chambers is now occupied by Judge Cathy Bissoon. Judge Bissoon has many first titles:

  • First woman of South Asian descent to sit on a federal court in the United States
  • First Asian American Article III judge in Pennsylvania
  • First Hispanic female Article III judge in Pennsylvania
  • First woman of color on U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania

Children Tapestry
The atrium between the courtrooms on this floor 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.
Judge PhotosIntake 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.

IS Tech Support 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.

Training roomAnother 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.