Democrats want to add justices to the US Supreme Court

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Sophie-Hélène Lebeuf (access the author's page)

Elected Democrats and activists for a reform of the judicial system appeared Thursday morning before the Supreme Court with a clear message: we must increase the number of judges sitting on this court. The Democrats' proposal, however, met with a cold reception from leaders of their own party.

The four-member group, including House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, has introduced a bill to reduce the number of judges sitting at the country's highest court from 9 to 13, now majority conservative.

Since last year, the tribunal, the ultimate arbiter called upon to decide on societal issues such as abortion, gay marriage or the constitutionality of political decisions, has counted six judges appointed by Republican presidents and three by Democrats.

We don't infiltrate the Supreme Court, we balance it, declared Mr. Nadler at a press conference, to refute the argument opposed to this approach by the Republicans.

The latter say they see it as a ploy invented by their opponents only to pass their policies.

In Mr. Nadler's view, the bill, called the Judicial System Act 2021, would instead restore the integrity of the court and right the wrongs inflicted by Republicans.

An opinion echoed by Senator Edward Markey, one of the sponsors of the bill.

We are here today because the Supreme Court of the United States is broken, it is out of balance, and it needs to be fixed.

A quote from:Edward Markey, Senator from Massachusetts

Too many Americans view the country's highest court as a partisan and political institution, not the impartial judicial branch of government, he argued.

The number of seats targeted corresponds to the number of appellate courts in the country, each of which would be supervised by a judge of the Supreme Court, as has been the case in the past.

The quorum to hear cases could be set at eight judges, said the elected Democrats.

The current composition of the tribunal no longer meets the imperatives of our time, argued Mr. Nader, citing the thousands of appeals presented to the Court each year and the advent of issues, such as the Internet or antitrust practices, which do not did not exist in the 19th century.

"Stolen" seats

Barack Obamak presenting Merrick Garland.

In 2016, Barack Obama chose Merrick Garland (the current attorney general appointed by Joe Biden) to fill a vacant seat on the Supreme Court. In the eyes of the Democrats, Merrick Garland has had his place in the highest court in the country stolen by the Republicans.

Photo: Reuters / Kevin Lamarque

The number of Supreme Court judges is not enshrined in the Constitution. It has even fluctuated a few times over the years, peaking at 10 judges in 1863 before being set at 9 six years later. The Supreme Court of the United States was established in 1789.

The debate over the composition of the country's highest court has returned with force in recent years. Democrats believe Republicans have grabbed seats that should have gone to judges appointed by Democratic presidents.

The Court is shattered, and make no mistake, it is shattered because Senator Mitch McConnell, his Republican colleagues in the Senate and Donald Trump shattered it., insisted Senator Markey.

Senate Republicans politicized the Supreme Court, undermined its legitimacy, and threatened the rights of millions of Americans, especially people of color, women, and our immigrant communities.

In 2016, then-Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to hold hearings on Judge Merrick Garland's possible confirmation. Nine months before the presidential election, he argued that the nomination came too close to the poll and should be left to the next president.

The maneuver had allowed Donald Trump, once elected, to appoint Neil Gorsuch.

The argument used in 2016 by the Republicans did not, however, prevent them from hastily endorsing the appointment of Judge Amy Coney Barrett at the end of October 2020, one week before the presidential election, after the death of the progressive judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

On his own, former President Donald Trump has appointed three conservative judges to the Supreme Court, thus significantly changing, possibly for decades, the balance of the tribunal, where magistrates are appointed for life.

How can Americans look at the court and expect it to deliver justice – equal justice – when it has been so harshly politically manipulated?

A quote from:Jerry Nadler, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee

A project that seems unsustainable

The Democratic group's proposal promises to be stillborn in the Senate, where 60 votes are needed to end debates on a project and put it to a vote. Although Democrats have control of the Senate, they only have half of the 100 seats, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the casting vote in the event of a tie.

However, the Republicans are already opposing an end of inadmissibility to the bill. Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell accused Democrats of threaten judicial independence at the gates of the Court.

The left wants to hang a sword above the judges as they assess the facts in each case. The goal is threats. It's the taking of hostages.

A quote from:Mitch McConnell, Senate Republican Minority Leader

A group of Republicans in the House of Representatives counterattacked by proposing a constitutional amendment setting the composition of the Supreme Court at nine judges.

Even Mr Nadler's counterpart in the Senate, Dick Durbin, also a Democrat, said he was not not ready to sign yet The law project. While he has expressed concern about the current situation, stemming from the Republicans' decision to block Judge Garland's appointment, he wants to make sure the answer is reasonable.

And in the House, where Democrats have a slim majority, the idea is unlikely to gain ground. Its president, the powerful Democrat Nancy Pelosi, has already closed the door on the proposal, at least for now.

Even before her colleagues introduced their bill, she said she did not plan to put it to a vote, saying she preferred the approach taken by Joe Biden.

Last week, the president created a commission made up of some 30 pro-democracy and pro-republic experts who are to look at various aspects of the Supreme Court, such as the number of judges, the length of their mandate, the way they select the cases as well as the rules and practices of the tribunal.

I don't know if (adding judges) is a good or a bad idea. I think this is an idea that should be explored. It would be a big change, explained Ms. Pelosi.

Some Democrats also fear that a transformation of this magnitude will mobilize the Republican base, for which the appointment of judges is traditionally a major electoral issue.

Jerry Nadler believes the Speaker of the House and her fellow Democrats would follow suit when the Conservative Supreme Court majority made decisions that roll back abortion rights as well as civil rights and others that would be harmful to the climate.

A first meeting of the commission

View of the Supreme Court in a low angle with the sky

The number of Supreme Court justices was set at nine in 1869.

Photo: Reuters / WILL DUNHAM

Based on its sources, the New York Times reported Thursday evening that the commission, made up of five sub-groups, would meet for the first time on Friday to establish a roadmap.

According to the daily, the commission should not formulate specific recommendations on the measures to be taken, but rather gather information on the consequences of the changes likely to be made.

The commission's report is expected in six months.

Over the course of his long political career, President Biden himself has often rejected the idea of ​​adding seats to the Supreme Court, even seeing it as a terrible mistake.

In October 2020, before the election, he reiterated that he was not in favor of this idea. The last thing we need is to make the Supreme Court a political game, in which whoever has the most votes gets what they want.Mr. Biden said on the show 60 Minutes from CBS News. Presidents come and go. Supreme Court justices stay for generations.

After Judge Ginsburg's death in September, he nevertheless pledged to create an independent commission to assess possible reforms.

With information from New York Times, and ABC News

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