Democrats Must Keep Their Eyes on the Supreme Court

The hasty affirmation of justice Amy Coney Barrett has, for the first time in decades, made the Democrats seriously consider progressive reforms to the Supreme Court. Today Conservatives have a 6-3 majority in the court, illegally developed by Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell. This stark reality has radicalized the grassroots. It has even got some Democratic senators to use their power to achieve profound structural change as opposed to a cosmetic bipartisan renovation.

Unfortunately, these senators are likely to be in the minority until at least early 2023. As long as McConnell remains the majority leader, he’s unlikely to allow reform (or law or democracy) in the Senate. But the Democrats must continue planning for the day they have enough seats in the Chamber to implement a plan that will soften Republican rule over the Supreme Court.

The simplest solution to the Republicans stranglehold is to expand the court or increase the number of judges. This could be achieved through a simple act of legislation and would be vaccinated against challenging the Constitution as this has been done a number of times before. I mean what would Chief Justice John Roberts do – lock the doors? The Supreme Court has no army. So if he doesn’t have ninja skills that I don’t know about, there’s little he can do when new colleagues show up for work.

The problem is that expanding the court to people who don’t know how the Constitution works sounds radical. To people who don’t know that increasing the number of judges is the best way to avoid the mere partisan struggle that occurs every time one of the nine judges dies or retires, it sounds political. This has spurred some Democrats to push for alternative reforms that sound humble but would in fact be much more difficult to implement as they would require a constitutional revamp.

The most popular of these supposedly sober but fundamentally unlikely proposals are the deadline restrictions, which were significantly increased in September by representatives Ro Khanna, Joe Kennedy III and Don Beyer introduced an invoice limit the nine judges to a term of 18 years. Her proposal would mean that each president would appoint at least two judges to the court for every four years in office. The idea is that this would make the court more responsive to electoral politics and end the current practice of letting judges wield power for 30 or 40 years.

Term restrictions are also significantly supported across party lines. Fix the Court, a group that has been promoting this idea for a while, has noticed 77 percent of Americans prefer some form of term limitation. The problem is, they’re likely to be unconstitutional. The constitution says that judges serve “behaved well,” which functionally means that they serve for life without impeachment. Proponents of tenure limits argue that they could get around this by referring temporary judges to federal courts. You’d still be able to serve for life, just not quite in the Supreme Court.


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