[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1997, Book II)]
[September 27, 1997]
[Page 1253]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

[[Page 1253]]

The President's Radio Address
September 27, 1997

    Good morning. I want to talk this morning about a very real threat 
to our judicial system. For more than 220 years, our Nation has remained 
young and strong by meeting new challenges in ways that renew our oldest 
values. Throughout our history, our judiciary has given life and meaning 
to those values by upholding the laws and defending the rights they 
reflect, without regard for politics or political party. That is the 
legacy of the judicial system our Founders established, a legacy we 
recalled this Thursday on the 40th anniversary of the court-ordered 
desegregation of Little Rock Central High School.
    But in the past 18 months, this vital partnership has broken down as 
the Senate has refused to act on nomination after nomination. And in 
Federal courthouses across America, almost 100 judges' benches are 
empty. In 1996 the Senate confirmed just 17 judges. That's the lowest 
election-year total in over 40 years. This year I've already sent 70 
nominations to Congress, but so far they've acted on less than 20. The 
result is a vacancy crisis in our courts that Supreme Court Chief 
Justice William Rehnquist warned could undermine our courts' ability to 
fairly administer justice.
    Meanwhile, our courts are clogged with a rising number of cases. An 
unprecedented number of civil cases are stalled, affecting the lives of 
tens of thousands of Americans, from the family seeking life insurance 
proceeds, to the senior citizen trying to collect Social Security 
benefits, to the small business protecting its right to compete. In our 
criminal courts, nearly 16,000 cases are caught in limbo while criminals 
on bail await punishment and victims await justice. Our sitting judges 
are overloaded and overworked, and our justice system is strained to the 
breaking point.
    The Senate's failure to act on my nominations, or even to give many 
of my nominees a hearing, represents the worst of partisan politics. 
Under the pretense of preventing so-called judicial activism, they've 
taken aim at the very independence our Founders sought to protect. The 
congressional leadership has actually threatened sitting judges with 
impeachment, merely because it disagrees with their judicial opinions. 
Under this politically motivated scrutiny, under ever-mounting 
caseloads, our judges must struggle to enforce the laws Congress passes 
and to do justice for us all.
    We can't let partisan politics shut down our courts and gut our 
judicial system. I've worked hard to avoid that. And the people I've 
nominated for judgeships and had confirmed have had the highest rating 
of well qualified from the American Bar Association of any President 
since these ratings have been kept.
    So today I call upon the Senate to fulfill its constitutional duty 
to fill these vacancies. The intimidation, the delay, the shrill voices 
must stop so the unbroken legacy of our strong, independent judiciary 
can continue for generations to come. This age demands that we work 
together in bipartisan fashion, and the American people deserve no less, 
especially when it comes to enforcing their rights, enforcing the law, 
and protecting the Constitution.
    Thanks for listening.

Note: The address was recorded at 6 p.m. on September 26 in the 
Presidential Suite of the Westin Oaks Galleria Hotel in Houston, TX, for 
broadcast at 10:06 a.m. on September 27.