Chief Justice Warren E. Burger today coupled kind words for the Carter administration with renewed criticism of Congress for insensitivity to the federal judiciary'e need for more judges and money to cope with a swollen caseload.
Repeatedly, Congress has enacted laws expanding the caseload without providing the resourses to handle it, even though Capitol Hill has been responsive in a few areas, Burger said in his annual speech to the mid-year meeting of the American Bar Association.
In passing the Emergency Natural Gas Act only 11 days ago, he noted, Congress assigned lawsuits arising under the law to the Emergency Court of Appeals, which it created in 1973 without ever providing extra judges to staff it.
In pointed contrast, Burger spoke in benign tones about President Carter, Attorney General Griffin B. Bell and Solicitor General-designate Wade McCree. Bell served on the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, while McCree is a judge of the Sixth Circuit.
Carter "has expressed his concern for the problems of the administration of justice and he has exhibited a grasp of the problems of the courts that gives encouragement to members of our profession," Burger said.
Moreover, he continued, Bell and McCree hold out hope, because of their experience, for "a greater understanding of our needs and problems" and for "improved communication between the courts and other branches of government."
Bell, in a press conference here, said, "We'll be doing a lot of reform, I'll tell you that," in trying to secure more inexpensive, faster justice."
He said he is setting up in the Justice Department an office for improving the administration of justice and has been in touch with Burger about this and other matters affecting the judiciary.
In criticizing Congress, Burger cited his 1972 proposal to require a judicial impact statement from House and Senate Committees whenever they report bills that could affect the caseload of federal courts. Bell told reports that he intends to have the Justice Department - without new legislation - prepare judicial impact statement of its own.
Burger endorsed proposals to improve the quality of the federal bench, by setting up presidential commissions - with laymen and judges as well as lawyers - to make nominations based on merit for the 10 appeals courts, and possibly also for the district, courts. In various forms, proposals for such commissions have been made by Bell and some senators, among others.
"If bona fide screening commissions are established, I believe we we will find a higher proportion of nominees who will be ranked 'exceptionally well qualified'" by the ABA, Burger said.
He went on to say that "the time is now right" for Congress to create a permanent commission on the judiciary to "fulfill part of the needs of the lack of communications" among the three branches of government.
In addition, he urged the ABA to renew efforts to persuade Congress to create a National Institute of Justice, which would give financial aid to state courts that they can't get from their "hard-pressed state legislatures."
Without further delay, he said, Congress should "totally eliminate" from the federal courts civil cases brought by a citizen of one state against a citizen of another. These so-called diversity cases account for one-fifth of all filings in the federal courts, Burger pointed out.
He also urged Congress to face "the harsh, intractable reality" that the U.S. Ninth Circuit Cour tof Appeals, which serves all the West Coast, is so overloaded that it must be broken into three divisions, with California spilt among two of them. A similar need, he said, exists in the Fifth Circuit, which extends between Key West, Fla., and the western boundary of Texas.
The California bar is asking the ABA House of Delegates to condemn any realignment of the Ninth Circuit, on grounds that "the uniformity of the appellate processes of California would be needlessly destroyed."