Statement on Signing the Handicapped Children's Protection Act of 1986

August 5, 1986

I have signed S. 415, the Handicapped Children's Protection Act of 1986. S. 415 provides for the award of reasonable attorneys' fees to the parent or guardian of a handicapped child who prevails in a suit under the act. However, I have serious reservations concerning section 5 of the act, which permits the award of attorneys' fees in any case that was pending on July 4, 1984, including suits that have already been concluded. The retroactive application of the act to cases that are no longer pending permits the Congress to displace the judicial function by interfering with a final judgment. To do so disturbs the settled expectations of the parties and the traditional finality that our society has accorded court decisions. Moreover, it is not clear what rational basis there is for imposing attorneys' fees in cases that have already been settled or finally adjudicated. However, given the underlying merits of the act generally, I am signing this measure, notwithstanding the constitutional problems it presents.

Note: S. 415, approved August 5, was assigned Public Law No. 99 - 372.