President Joe Biden was never a fan of serious Supreme Court reforms – be it increasing their numbers, setting term limits, or both. And he responded to the question by setting up a 34-person commission to look into the matter. Last week, Biden’s commission stopped making recommendations, citing “deep disagreements among commissioners” and just passed a 288-page report dispassionately examining the pros and cons of various judicial reform proposals.
Now Senator Elizabeth Warren is calling on Congress to use its constitutional authority to add four members to the court. “I don’t come to this conclusion lightly or because I disagree with a particular decision; I come to this conclusion because I believe that the current court threatens the democratic foundations of our nation, ”she wrote in a Boston Globe Opinion piece Wednesday afternoon.
I interviewed Warren – scheduled to speak about her opinion article on court reform – Thursday night. And then Reports surfaced about a confusing tradeoff between the Build Back Better package and securing voting rights (with no evidence ever going to be found) so we talked about that too.
The Biden Supreme Court Reform Commission had the bad luck – or bad judgment – of publishing its report just days after the court appeared ready to uphold Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban, the benchmark for legal abortion of fetuses would change “viability” or approximately 22-24 weeks from the 1973 established Roe versus Wade Decision. At least four Conservative judges appeared ready to overthrow roe all; Chief Justice John Roberts appeared to hold out 15 weeks as a sensible compromise; none of the other judges seemed to agree. It is almost certain that roe will be seriously weakened again if not knocked down.
But Warren says that while she was appalled by the Mississippi hearing, her proposal is not being driven by a single decision or possible verdict, but by the court’s massive attacks on voting rights, gun reform, labor rights, environmental regulations, and more. “The lawlessness of this court is a grave threat to our democracy and our country,” she wrote.
Recently, two commissioners, jurists Kermit Roosevelt and Caroline Fredrickson, spoke out in favor of adding more judges. “The enlargement of the court may be the only thing that will save our democracy for the next generation,” wrote Roosevelt in time Magazine. Brian Fallon, Executive Director of Demand Justice, advocate of judicial reform, dismissed the commission as an empty exercise in The New York Times last week.