Right now, nine justices hold tremendous power in American law. It's been that way since Ulysses S. Grant first inhabited the White House. The Constitution is silent on just how many justices should sit on the nation's top bench, and in 1937 President Roosevelt tried to add a slew of new appointments that would be sympathetic to his New Deal programs. Congress didn't bite. Now, advocates on the left are eyeing the bench once again. They see a Supreme Court out of touch with the American electorate, obstructed by partisan interests, and rendered illegitimate by years of controversial appointments. But those opposed are sounding the alarms. A move to dramatically change one of the three core pillars of American government would ultimately undermine the court’s legitimacy. It’s not perfect, they argue. But the court has consistently shown its independence and should not be compromised as a result of partisan ambitions. So, in light of this emerging divide, Intelligence Squared U.S. in partnership with The Newt and Jo Minow Debate Series at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law asks this question: Is it okay to expand the court?
- The addition of seats to the Supreme Court would allow the sitting president the power to nominated judges they feel would help balance a court across the ideological spectrum. Currently, the court has a 6-3 majority of justices appointed by conservatives.
- The Supreme Court has been primarily made up of white men throughout history. Expanding the number of justies would allow for more diversity amongst the justices. Additionally, it would be able to take on more, more important, and more diverse cases.
- It is legal to change the number of justicecs on the Supreme Court as Congress sees fit. It has always been a political battleground, and now liberals need to push for more seats thta will protect progressive policy advancements such as abortion access, voting rights, immigration reform, and LGBT equality.
- The addition of seats to the Supreme Court would initiate a 'tit-fot-tat' political fight in which each party in power continues adding justices to the court to ensure their policies are backed. This would destabilize and delegitimize the Supreme Court in the public's eye.
- Despite concerns from the political left, the current court's voting record has not been entirely in line with the coservative party agenda. Non-partisanship still exists on the Supreme Court.
- Just because changing the number of justices is legal and has been done in the past does not mean it should. All previous examples of court expansion or trimming have been borne out of political greed and resulted in a turbulent judiciary.