This fall, the United States Supreme Court has been receiving quite a bit of attention. With ongoing litigation ranging from the Texas law limiting when abortions may be performed, to vaccine mandates, to second amendment rights, a spotlight is currently focused on the court. With so many high-profile cases and the public discussion around them, this recent attention has launched another critical debate into the limelight - court packing.
Since the 2016 election, Congressional Democrats have been fixated on their plan of packing the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court consists of nine justices, just as it has since 1869. While the number of Senators and Representatives has grown since then, to reflect our growing population, there has been no need to grow the court since its primary job is to interpret the law; something having more justices would only complicate.
Despite the problems adding more justices to the court would bring, Democrats have pushed to raise the number as high as thirteen, solely because they don’t like the current composition of the court, just as President Roosevelt sought to pack the court in the 1930s for political reasons. Empowering President Biden to appoint four new justices to the Supreme Court would put our government in the same category of dictators like Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, destroying the integrity of our court system in one fell swoop.
To address the concerns of court packing proponents, President Biden has formed a partisan commission to consider and propose reforms to the court. Over the course of the next month President Biden’s Supreme Court commission will begin drafting their final report to the President. While it is not certain this commission will recommend adding justices to the Supreme Court, it could propose other workarounds like term limits or age limits for justices, which could speed up the process of opening seats that President Biden could fill. While these proposals may sound good because they would be framed as “modernizing” the court, the primary effect would be more frequent and more intense politicization of the Supreme Court nomination and approval process by those who think the primary purpose of the court should be writing new laws, not interpreting existing laws and determining whether they are compliant with our constitution.
Adding justices to the Supreme Court is a mistake under any presidency, but the state of our current political climate makes this proposal even more worrisome. The impact manipulating the Supreme Court of the United States would have, and the precedent it would set, are more dangerous than we could possibly predict. The late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg expressed this sentiment best when she stated, “If anything would make the court look partisan, it would be that — one side saying, ‘When we’re in power, we’re going to enlarge the number of judges, so we would have more people who would vote the way we want them to.’