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Statement on Signing H.R. 7843 Into Law: Appointments of Additional District and Circuit Judges

October 20, 1978

The omnibus judgeship act, which I am signing today, creates an unprecedented number of new positions in the Federal judiciary--35 new judgeships on the courts of appeals and 117 on the district courts, increasing the size of the Federal bench by over one-quarter. These new judges will help us catch up on court backlogs and provide prompt, efficient administration of justice in this country.

Judicial decisions affect every American. It is imperative to select our top legal minds for these openings. At the appellate level, the 13 panels of the Circuit Judge Nominating Commission, which I established by Executive order, will screen candidates to ensure that only the most qualified individuals are considered. Similar commissions have been established in 18 States to consider candidates for district judgeships.

I will sign another Executive order which will set standards and guidelines for the selection of district court judges.

This order will encourage the creation of nominating commissions in States where they do not now exist, and it will set minimum standards for judicial selection in all States--even those that do not yet have commissions.

This act provides a unique opportunity to begin to redress another disturbing feature of the Federal judiciary: the almost complete absence of women or members of minority groups. Of 525 active judges, only 29 are black or Hispanic, and only 9 are women--and almost half of these have been appointed during my administration.

I am committed to these appointments, and pleased that this act recognizes that we need more than token representation on the Federal bench.

Last May I signed an Executive order requiring that judicial selection commissions actively recruit qualified minority and female lawyers as circuit judge candidates. I intend to write each Chairman of each panel to remind them of this obligation.

The Senate has historically played an important role in judicial selection, particularly at the district court level, and I ask the Senators--and their commissions, where they exist--to work with me to achieve a more representative judiciary. To further this goal, I will not nominate any judges in a circuit until I have had an opportunity to review all candidates for that circuit. All candidates for a district court will be reviewed in the same fashion before any final decisions are made.

I am happy to sign the omnibus judgeship act today. Our Nation needs these new judges, and it is important that they be the most qualified lawyers available. In filling these judicial openings, we must bear firmly in mind the vital issues these men and women will deal with--issues that will affect our national life well into the 21st century.

Note: As enacted, H.R. 7843 is Public Law 95-486, approved October 20.

Jimmy Carter, Statement on Signing H.R. 7843 Into Law: Appointments of Additional District and Circuit Judges Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/244184

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