Vanderbilt Law Review


Griffin B. Bell

First Page



The popular conception of the crisis in the courts focuses upon the condition of the courts and particularly upon the increasing volume of disputes that are presented for resolution. For example,Judge Ruggero J. Aldisert of the Third Circuit, one of the busiest federal circuits, has observed: "The reality is that today there is a mad rush to the Federal courts." The available statistics reflect Judge Aldisert's observation. For instance, according to the most recent report of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, record numbers of cases have been filed in the circuit and district courts during the past year, and the number of cases pendng in these courts has reached new levels. The result has been large caseloads for judges and substantial delays for litigants. Despite the efforts of overworked federal judges, the quality of justice dispensed by our federal court system is beginning to deteriorate, and unless checked, this deterioration will accelerate.I believe, however, that we must look beyond the condition of the courts and their caseloads. The addition of some judges, a measure that I hope Congress soon will approve and send to the President, is necessary, but the mere addition of new judges will not address the more fundamental problems. We should consider as well the appropriate role of the judiciary in American society, for it is that role more than the condition of the courts that presents the greatest possibility for decisive change in response to the crisis. In taking this approach, however, we must consider many factors--including the pressures of volume-before proposing solutions to the problems that we find.