President Biden’s Supreme Court Commission met virtually for the third time this week, and once again the debate about adding more justices to the nation’s highest court took center stage.
The 36-member commission listened to hours of testimony from more than two dozen experts on the court’s nomination process, its makeup, and how long judges should serve.
Among those testifying, a group of lawyers who often appear before the Supreme Court justices.
They call proposals to pack the court with more judges counterproductive.
“Increasing the number of justices represents an escalation of the problem and not a solution and a larger bench could make arguments less productive, deliberations more difficult and yield even more opinions with less clarity in the law,” said Maureen Mahoney, co-chair of the Supreme Court Practitioners’ Committee.
The court has remained at 9 justices since 1869 and now that conservatives hold a 6 to 3 majority, some progressives like Nan Aron, with the liberal Alliance for Justice, are pressuring the Biden administration to add some extra progressive justices.
She sees the current makeup of the court as a threat to democracy that needs reforming.
“The court today is partisan, politicized and anti-democratic,” Aron told the commission. “In fact, Republicans are using this undemocratic and partisan majority on the court to cement their own power and enact an unpopular agenda that they cannot achieve legislatively.”
Commission members also heard testimony from those for and against justices serving on the bench for life.
“Many respected scholars support staggered, 18-year terms. While the potential benefits are real, I doubt it will be a panacea,” said John Malcolm with Heritage Foundation. “18 years is still a long time and tying the court’s membership to the results of each presidential election might actually ramp up partisan rhetoric and lead to even more contentious confirmation hearings.”
Biden’s Supreme Court Commission, formed in April, is made up of dozens of mostly liberal scholars and activists.
Conservatives have blasted the president’s proposal to overhaul the high court.
The commission plan two more public meetings after which they will present their final report to the president in November.