On Packing The Court

By Kabir Singh '21

Packing the court is an ineffectual, short term solution to a long term problem (Photo Credit: National Review)

Ensuing the tragic death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg on September 18th was an unconstitutional, hypocritical, and insensitive push by Donald Trump to nominate right-wing Judge Amy Coney Barrett. Judge Barrett’s strict following of Catholic Orthodoxy with regard to her political ideology endangers the rights and civil liberties of women, LGBTQ+, BIPOC, and other marginalized communities. Her likely confirmation has ignited Democratic outrage, who harken back to Republican senators abstaining from confirming Obama’s nominee Judge Merrick Garland only four years ago. Consequently, many leaders of the Democratic party call, in the case of a Joe Biden victory, for the Democratic nominee to “pack the courts''.


“Packing the court” is a term commonly used when referring to President Franklin D. Roosevelt's failed legislative push to expand the Supreme Court to fifteen people in 1937. However, the term is making a quick resurgence as Democrats struggle to cope with an increasingly Republican Supreme Court. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), Former Vice President Joe Biden and Kamala Harris (D-CA) claim it a defensive move against Republican encroachment used solely to depoliticize the Supreme Court. However, while this method of quelling a forced expanding Republican power 一 which endangers the rights and existence of many historically oppressed communities 一 may provide temporary relief, in the long term it could result in a far more exaggerated shift of power to a Republican-dominated court.


Ensuing the tragic death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg on September 18th was an unconstitutional, hypocritical, and insensitive push by Donald Trump to nominate right-wing Judge Amy Coney Barrett. Judge Barrett’s strict following of Catholic Orthodoxy with regard to her political ideology endangers the rights and civil liberties of women, LGBTQ+, BIPOC, and other marginalized communities. Her likely confirmation has ignited Democratic outrage, who harkens back to Republican senators abstaining from confirming Obama’s nominee Judge Merrick Garland only four years ago. Consequently, many leaders of the Democratic party call, in the case of a Joe Biden victory, for the Democratic nominee to “pack the courts''. t in America. These are the people who get to decide on issues such as reproductive rights, immigration laws, and healthcare. This is a threat to our democracy, and many people may suggest that packing the courts is the only option for Democrats.


However, if Democrats continue to focus solely on the short term, we may end up with increased threats to our civil liberties in the next decade. Packing the court may turn into a race, with each president attempting to expand and stuff the court with Judges who will advance their political beliefs, resulting in constantly increasing seats in the Supreme Court and essentially delegitimizing it. Even if a race to fill seats is avoided, the move to pack the courts will have Republicans up in arms, possibly energizing them more than the Democrats in voter turnout in key midterm and presidential elections.


As Judges of the Supreme Court retire or die, conservative presidents, some tasked with nominating many judges during one term, may lead to the confirmation of many Republican-leaning judges; and conservatives will continue to dominate the court.


Instead of packing, the Democrats should shift their focus to imposing term limits and grooming potential candidates for the next appointments. The Judicial system is the only branch of the government that does not limit the time a single person can hold their respective position. Our democracy was built on the premise of representing the will of the people. Currently, in the Supreme Court, some judges, including Judge Clarence Thomas and Judge Stephen G. Breyer, were nominated in the 1990s. The lack of a term limit poses a risk to our democracy when considering how drastically our society's values have shifted in the past two decades. Term limits would allow a stagnant Supreme Court to begin to progress along with our society. Staggering these term limits to align with new election years could ensure that one president does not change the political landscape during a single term.


Packing the court is an ineffectual, short term solution to a long term problem. The current state of the Supreme Court exposes deep flaws in its fundamental functions which require radical changes to repair, and packing is not one of these changes. Rather, the solution is imposing term limits that will keep the values of the court aligned with those of the people and ensuring that the Democratic party emphasizes the importance of the Judicial and Legislative branches.


Receive The Iris in your inbox

  • Instagram
  • YouTube
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn