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Statement on Signing a District of Columbia Courts Bill

March 19, 1984

I am pleased to approve H.R. 3655, a bill that will create seven new judgeships on the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and also raise the mandatory retirement age from 70 to 74 for judges on that court and on the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.

The Superior Court is a unique Federal court with important judicial responsibilities in the Nation's Capital. The growing backlog of criminal and civil litigation in the Superior Court is accordingly a matter of both local and Federal concern, and this legislation will help alleviate the backlog. It is my hope that the District of Columbia Judicial Nomination Commission will act promptly in submitting lists of qualified individuals for nomination to these judgeships so that the new judges can be in place, reducing the backlog, as soon as possible.

While this legislation will ease the caseload problem in the Superior Court, it does not provide a cure for that problem or the similar problems plaguing most of our nation's courts. The staggering increase in litigation has strained the capacity of our courts and threatened their ability to settle disputes. One of America's greatest lawyers, Abraham Lincoln, once said: "Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often a real loser—in fees, expenses, and waste of time." We must continue to search for alternative means of settling disputes. If we fail to do so, the costs and delays of litigation in our overcrowded courts will effectively close the courthouse doors to all but the wealthy and those that seek to use delay to their advantage. We must not permit meritorious claims deserving of prompt judicial resolution to become lost in a sea of frivolous suits or disputes that could more quickly and efficiently be resolved in other forums.

Note: As enacted, H.R. 3655 is Public Law 98-235, approved March 19.

Ronald Reagan, Statement on Signing a District of Columbia Courts Bill Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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