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Federal Civil Justice System Remarks to Reporters on Proposed Legislation

February 27, 1979

THE PRESIDENT. First of all, I want to express my thanks to the Attorney General, to Assistant Dan Meador,1 and to the chairmen and members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees for making this meeting and announcement possible.

1 Assistant Attorney General, Office for Improvements in the Administration of Justice.

Today, I'm sending a message to the Congress setting out the reforms proposed for the Federal civil justice system.

There's a general, worldwide recognition that the judicial system of the United States is admirable and worthy of emulation and has great strength, integrity, and competence. But there has been long recognition of problems that do exist. Sometimes, litigation is unnecessary and is required to take place in our courts; sometimes, necessary litigation is unnecessarily delayed and, when it does take place, is extremely costly.

Working with Chairman Rodino and Chairman Kennedy and the members of their committees, we have now developed a proposal, under the Attorney General, that will, I think, help to remove these obstacles from the judicial system in civil cases. This is not just a problem for judges and lawyers or Congress Members and Attorneys General and Presidents. It's a problem for all Americans and particularly those who are not wealthy and who have to deal with a court which is quite often a mystery to them and where delays are so costly that justice cannot be realized.

We will include in this recommendation a court-supervised arbitration as one of the major proposals, whereby without litigation, court-appointed arbitrators can resolve civil differences.

Secondly, there will be expanded the jurisdictional capability of Federal magistrates.

Third, there will be an opportunity now for removal from the Federal court system of strictly State cases when the litigants happen to come from two different States.

Fourth is, the Supreme Court will be given increased authority over its own docket. And there will be both resources and money made available for the development of procedures to resolve minor disputes.

In addition to these five points which will be proposed to the Congress, I've also sent the Federal Courts Improvement Act of 1979 to the Congress, which will combine the Court of Claims and the Court of Customs and Patents Appeals into the U.S. Court of Appeals. This will have a major beneficial effect when adopted, and I'm sure that with the leadership of those Members of the Congress assembled around me this morning that the Congress will take rapid action and let these benefits be realized by the American people.

I would now like to call upon the noted chairman of the House Judiciary Committee to make some comments, if he will. Chairman Rodino.

REPRESENTATIVE RODINO. Thank you very much, Mr. President.

Mr. President and colleagues, first of all, I'd like to applaud you, Mr. President, for taking this step. I believe that we, as Members of the Congress entrusted with a special responsibility in the area of dispensing justice, recognize the need for our improvement in the machinery of justice so that the quality of justice that is dispensed is such that we can be proud. And I believe that central to our responsibility in the House Judiciary Committee is our concern for how the citizens of this country view the system of justice. And I think very frankly, there has been some question.

And I believe that these proposals that have been advanced by Judge Bell and Dan Meador, which have been worked over for a period of time by the chairman of the Subcommittee on Courts and Civil Liberties and the Administration of Justice, Mr. Kastenmeier, along with Mr. Railsback and the ranking minority member of our Judiciary Committee, Mr. McClory—I think all of this indicates the great concern we have and the trust that we feel that we have, especially as members of the Judiciary Committee, in assuring that the system of justice is one that reflects the highest ideals of this country.

I Believe that most important is whether or not we, as a society, can dispense justice in a manner to show that we are a just society and how just is our system of justice and whether or not the Federal court machinery, which is there as the administrator of the system, whether or not that Federal court machinery does treat the individual, with his certain basic belief in that this system is one that protects funds mental liberties and rights, whether or not that Federal court machinery does reflect this. And I believe that this inures to the respect of our Nation when we do this.

I believe that all of these proposals, Mr. President, go generally toward these objectives and the strengthening of our system of justice. And I pledge you, as the chairman of that committee who takes a great deal of pride in what we have done and, along with Senator Kennedy as chairman of the Senate committee, that we will work toward that end and realize these objectives.

Thank you very much, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, with that pledge from the great committee chairman, I'm sure that the House will favorably consider these proposals without delay. And I'm very grateful to hear that.

And now, Chairman Kennedy.

SENATOR KENNEDY. We have a similar pledge, Mr. President.


SENATOR KENNEDY. I, too, want to commend President Carter for this very extraordinary effort in trying to make our system of justice both more available and more efficient. I think it's completely consistent with the President's strong desire for efficiency in government and as well as for the protection of human rights, the millions of Americans who do not participate in our judicial system.

Mr. President, it's been some 50 years since the time that Charles Evans Hughes made a recommendation to President Roosevelt that we have had the kind of comprehensive recommendation that we have in this particular package which you and General Bell and, most singularly, Senator DeConcini and Howard Metzenbaum have worked out so effectively for the American people.

And I just want to join in commending you, to indicate we have already had 2 days of hearings already in this session on these general subject matters, and we would hope to handle this legislation as a very high priority in our Senate Judiciary Committee.

THE PRESIDENT. How would you assess the chances of passage?

SENATOR KENNEDY. I think they're good. [Laughter]


Before I introduce the Attorney General to answer your questions, I would like particularly to commend Dan Meador, who has been instrumental in the evolution of these proposals, which are historic in nature and very far-reaching and beneficial to all the American people.

I might say that we have stayed in close contact with the Supreme Court Justices and other advisers. This morning, the Attorney General talked to the Chief Justice. He fully supports these proposals. And I think they will be noted in every magistrate's court, district court, circuit court, all the way up to the court of appeals and to the Supreme Court of our country as a major step forward in the proper administration of justice. But I particularly want to thank Dan Meador.

And now I'd like to turn over the meeting to the Attorney General, who will add some further remarks and answer your specific questions.

Mr. Attorney General.

NOTE: The President spoke at 12:16 p.m. to reporters assembled in the Briefing Room at the White House.

Jimmy Carter, Federal Civil Justice System Remarks to Reporters on Proposed Legislation Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/248963

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