Public Papers

Remarks on Signing the Law Day, U.S.A., Proclamation


Well, let me welcome Senator Thurmond and Congressman Jack Brooks, representing the Judiciary Committees on the Hill, and Bob Raven, the president of the ABA, American Bar Association. For more than 30 years, Presidents have designated May 1st Law Day, and I'm honored to continue that tradition. On that day, we celebrate the American legal system's vital role in helping to maintain the balance between freedom and order, the principled and yet practical balance that makes democracy possible.

And this year, our Law Day celebration will focus on access to justice. Let me quote the oath that every Federal judge takes before assuming office: ``To administer justice without regard to person and do equal right to the poor and the rich.'' Now, that oath reflects our nation's deep commitment to equal justice for all, a commitment that every citizen's claim shall be judged on its merit, not on the basis of his status or place or standing in society. It's the very core of the democratic idea, the distinction that sets democracy apart from all other systems of government. And we can all take pride in our nation's ability to give life to that ideal.

And yet our work is not done -- the work of ensuring that recourse to justice is within the reach of every individual in this nation. For the poor, especially, the legal process can be a costly, complex, and extremely cumbersome route to the justice that they deserve. And today I call on all of you -- on all Americans -- to perfect the promise of that judicial path. Each of you can contribute. Each of you can help people understand the legal system and to use it responsibly. You can encourage the resolution of disputes without recourse to the legal system when that serves the interests of the parties involved. And each of you can make the highest standards of justice your own standard.

But access without quality is in the interests of no one. We must recruit and retain this nation's best legal talent on the Federal bench. I have submitted to Congress a legislation that would raise the salary of the judges by 25 percent, an increase that, in my view, is long overdue. I urge each of you and all those out there listening to give your strongest possible support to see that that measure wins quick approval.

The rule of law -- equal for all -- is the central concept of our democratic system. I'm pleased to sign the proclamation declaring May 1st as Law Day, 1989. And thank you all for coming.

Note: The President spoke at 11:05 a.m. in the Roosevelt Room at the White House. The proclamation is listed in Appendix E at the end of this volume.