President Joe Biden has signed an executive order to set up a commission aimed at studying possible reforms to be made to the U.S Supreme Court, including the controversial ‘packing’ of the court which is being aggressively pushed forward by Democrats. Packing means expanding the number of justices in the Supreme Court. If the move were successful, Democrats would add enough pro-liberal members to the court to get a controlling majority. At present, the Supreme Court has a 6-3 conservative majority, which has been a source of discontent among liberals.
“The Commission’s purpose is to provide an analysis of the principal arguments in the contemporary public debate for and against Supreme Court reform, including an appraisal of the merits and legality of particular reform proposals. The topics it will examine include the genesis of the reform debate; the Court’s role in the Constitutional system; the length of service and turnover of justices on the Court; the membership and size of the Court; and the Court’s case selection, rules, and practices,” the White House said in a statement.
The commission will be led by Bob Bauer and Cristina Rodriguez, who both served as officials in the Obama administration. Bauer has been a major proponent for imposing term limits for Supreme Court justices. One of his articles from 2005 argued that since American laws normally constrain great power with limits, it would make sense to apply such limits to the justices as well.
Over 30 people have been named in the commission, which is scheduled to issue a comprehensive report on the matter within 180 days of their first meeting. During his presidential campaign, Joe Biden had promised to arrange for experts to look into the matter of the Supreme Court’s structure.
Senate Minority Leader Republican Mitch McConnell called Biden’s court-packing commission an “assault on our nation’s independent jury.” He cited late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who had said that “nine seems to be a good number” for the Supreme Court justices. McConnell also accused Democrats of having an “open disdain for judicial independence” and cited how Democrat Senator Chuck Schumer had threatened Supreme Court justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch in March last year.
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, who was appointed by Clinton and has often sided with other liberal justices on several court decisions, has also expressed worries at Biden’s attempt to expand the size of the Supreme Court. In a speech given at Harvard University, he warned that the act of adding seats will only diminish the value of the Supreme Court in public perception.
“Put abstractly, the Court’s power, like that of any tribunal, must depend upon the public’s willingness to respect its decisions, even those with which they disagree and even when they believe a decision seriously mistaken… If the public sees judges as ‘politicians in robes,’ its confidence in the courts, and in the rule of law itself, can only diminish, diminishing the Court’s power, including its power to act as a ‘check’ on the other branches,” Breyer said in his address.
Following Breyer’s statements regarding packing the court, several left-wing groups called for his resignation, asking for a younger, more radical justice to replace him. When White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked whether the groups pressuring Breyer should just back off, she declined to defend the Supreme Court justice.