For the Record
Warren E. Burger, Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, speaking before the American Bar Association on the need for measures to decrease the Court's workload:
Part, but not all, of the explanation for the increase in cases is that in just the short span of 14 years, Congress has enacted more than 100 statutes creating new claims, entitlements, and causes of action. Judicial opinions have also created new causes of action, but to a lesser extent by far.
In this period another development has become acute. Gradually, over the last 30 years or more, the content and complexity of the cases have changed drastically, and often there are few precedents to guide the courts in these new areas. The wholly new kinds of cases that are reaching the courts reflect changes in our increasingly complex society and changes in the relationships of government to individuals.
Increasingly the Court has been confronted with more claims of prisoners relating to the condition of their confinement; some are absurd and frivolous, some are valid. There are new claims of teachers and pro-fessors relating to their tenure and the conditions of their employment, and new claims of employment discrimination.
There are challenges to the validity of new kinds of cases levied by the hard-pressed states giving rise to serious constitutional questions. We have seen difficult and complex cases arising out of long overdue recognition of the rights of women and minorities. New legal problems arise from the growth of multinational corporations, and cases on conflicts between protection of the environment and developments of new sources of energy and new industry. Still other new cases relate to an ancient problem, the status and rights of illegitimate children.
This is not surprising, for we live in a dynamic society. As a people, we have never been content with the status quo. We have recognized the impact of all this on the lower courts by more than doubling the number of judges in 30 years. In 1953, there were 279 authorized federal judgeships; today there are 647, and these are the judges who produce the grist for the Supreme Court "mill." In 1953, district-court filings were about 99,000; there were about 3,200 court-of-appeals filings. Currently, there are nearly 240,000 district-court filings and 28,000 court-of-appeals filings.
If we project the experience of the past 14 years over the next 14 years, the Supreme Court will have 7,000 to 9,000 filings annually. I leave it to you to say how many fully argued cases requiring full treatment and signed opinions that would reasonably call for.
Vol. 02, Issue 21