Packing the Court: A Terrible, Terrible Idea

When President Biden announced a commission to examine “the arguments in the contemporary public debate for and against Supreme Court reform,” I initially assumed this was his way of killing the issue. After all, there is no better way to kill an issue than with a committee. But I was wrong; far from killing the issue, he normalized it. An idea once so repugnant that it was immediately dismissed is now receiving attention from the party leader himself. 

This has culminated with a bill entering Congress to expand the Supreme Court; to alter the number of justices for the first time since 1869. Thankfully, this bill won’t pass. It lacks the support of Democratic party leadership and Republicans alike. Unfortunately, this bill accomplishes the unthinkable. 

This bill casts the judiciary as another partisan branch. When Alexander Hamilton and the other Federalists were selling America on the Constitution, they made sure to stress that not only would the judiciary be the feeblest branch of government but an independent one. The naked partisan motive behind this bill is to install four additional justices to “unpack” the court. 

The irony is that Representatives Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Hank Johnson (D-GA), the bill’s sponsors, would be accomplishing just that. They would politicize the court to the nth degree. Should this bill pass, the court would forever be fair game for political reprisals.  

The founders were abundantly clear that “all possible care is requisite (required) to enable it (the judiciary) to defend itself against their (the other two governmental branches’) attacks” since the judiciary cannot muster money nor men to its cause. All justices can or should do is judge and leave the politicking to accountable parties. 

Should the progressive wing of the Democratic Party succeed, we would see a revolving door of judicial composition as we would expect in a banana republic. Our tit-for-tat politics ensures this. This rubber-stamping judiciary would wreak havoc on our rights, center power in itself and make a mockery of our laws. Justice Stephen Breyer, often referred to as a liberal jurist, agrees that any plan designed to fight the alleged politicization of the court will only feed into that perception. It would tarnish the bench.

As Biden pointed out during his time in the senate, court-packing is not illegal. But it would be a “terrible, terrible idea.” I can say with no doubt in my mind that 1983 Biden hit the nail on the head. Democrats are keen on Hamilton the Musical, but I strongly recommend they read Hamilton, the statesman.