It’s time to pack the court

Barry Lewandowski , Staff Writer

In 2016, with nearly eight months until the election and 10 months until the end of President Barack Obama’s term, Senate Republicans refused to hold hearings on Merrick Garland, the president’s Supreme Court nominee. Eight days before the 2020 election, Senate Republicans pushed through now-Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett. These facts demand that, should the Democrats win the majority in the U.S. Senate, the court must be expanded.

It didn’t matter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that over 60 million Americans had already voted. It didn’t matter to Senate Republicans that a president who received nearly three million fewer votes than Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton would be placing his third Supreme Court justice on the bench for a lifetime appointment. It should, however, matter to the rest of us.

The Supreme Court, since the conception of the Constitution, has had as few as five, and as many as 10, justices on the court at once. There is no set number specifying how many justices must be on the court, as that number is set by Congress. The size of the court varied constantly before 1869, in which to match the number of federal court circuits, Congress set the number of Supreme Court justices at nine. Aside from a threat by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to add as many as six additional justices in 1937, the idea of adding justices to the court has been a moot point.

Democratic nominee for president Joseph Biden has not offered an opinion on adding justices to the court, instead offering that Americans will “know my opinion on court-packing when the election is over.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, when asked about adding justices, said “everything is on the table,” should the Democrats win a Senate majority.

Joe Biden, Chuck Schumer, and Senate Democrats: if the Democratic party makes up a majority of the Senate after Nov. 3, the Supreme Court should expand to 13 justices.

The 1869 precedent of nine justices was set because there were nine federal court circuits. Since then, more states have been added. The country is extraordinarily larger, and we now have 13 appellate courts that make up the U.S. Courts of Appeals. While it may seem like a drastic jump, moving so swiftly from a nine-seat court to a 13 seat one, this move is necessary.

President Donald J. Trump has appointed a third of the Supreme Court. Coney Barrett, who is an extremely conservative justice, is 48, making her one of the youngest justices ever appointed. Trump’s second appointed justice, Brett Kavanaugh, argued recently that mail-in ballots received after Nov. 3, but sent prior, should not be counted, as they could “flip the results” of an election. And it should never be forgotten that Senate Republicans let the Supreme Court remain at eight justices for over 10 months, after which a newly elected Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch.

The Supreme Court is now seen as having a 6-3 conservative to liberal majority. The court consists of justices like Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, who lashed out against the decision made in the 2015 case of Obergefell v. Hodges, which declared same-sex marriage a constitutional right.

The court is imbalanced. With the nomination and confirmation of Coney Barrett, it has completely lost its legitimacy. If Biden wins the presidency, and if Democrats win the Senate, the Supreme Court must be expanded. It must consist of 13 justices.