The proposed expansion is a move to “restore balance to the nation’s highest court”
New legislation has called for the addition of four more seats to the US Supreme Court bench.
The Judiciary Act of 2021 was introduced on Thursday by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, Senator Edward Markey, Representative Mondaire Jones and Hank Johnson, Chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet. The bill is set to “restore balance to the nation’s highest court,” according to a press release on Nadler’s government website.
“It’s time that we start thinking about the Supreme Court like we think about the rest of the federal government and consider whether and how its current composition allows it to effectively do what we need it to do – efficiently and effectively administer justice and uphold the rule of law,” Johnson said in the release.
With the expansion, the court would have 13 sitting justices – something Nadler said was “a sensible progression” given that there are currently 13 circuits.
“Nine justices may have made sense in the nineteenth century when there were only nine circuits, and many of our most important federal laws – covering everything from civil rights, to antitrust, the internet, financial regulation, health care, immigration, and white-collar crime –simply did not exist, and did not require adjudication by the Supreme Court,” he said. “But the logic behind having only nine justices is much weaker today, when there are 13 circuits.”
Moreover, the bill gives the Democratic Party a chance to break the Republican Party’s majority on the bench following the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett as a justice last year.
“Our democracy is hanging by a thread. And the far-right majority on the US Supreme Court is cutting it. From Citizens United to Shelby County to Rucho, the court has been hostile to democracy itself,” Jones said. “If a law suppresses the right to vote, it is constitutional; if a law protects the right to vote, especially for Black and brown voters, it is unconstitutional. The American people have had enough. To restore power to the people, we must expand the Supreme Court.”
An act of Congress can determine the number of Supreme Court justices, and does not necessitate the US Constitution’s amending. The court size has been modified seven times since its inception, thus providing precedent for the proposed expansion.
“Senate Republicans have politicised the Supreme Court, undermined its legitimacy, and threatened the rights of millions of Americans, especially people of colour, women and our immigrant communities,” Markey said. “This legislation will restore the court’s balance and public standing and begin to repair the damage done to our judiciary and democracy.”
Markey also called for the abolition of the filibuster to ensure the passing of the legislation, a move supported by Demand Justice executive director Brian Fallon.
However, the move was not met without opposition. Judicial Crisis Network President Carrie Severino slammed the announcement of the Judiciary Act of 2021 in a tweet, saying that “the left” wanted to “pack the court with politicians in robes who will advance their radical agenda.”
President Joe Biden, who had said during his campaign for the presidency that he did not support the addition of more seats to the Supreme Court bench, recently put together a 36-member panel to look into the court’s possible expansion.