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REIGNING SUPREME: With Court Reform on the Agenda, is it Time to Reign in the Supreme Court?

Democracy is a system of checks and balances. When it comes to America, the Supreme Court is part of those checks and balances. But lately, people have begun to question whether the Supreme Court is still effective in this role. Critics believe the nine-person court has become partisan, with six judges nominated by Republicans and only three nominated by Democrats, giving Republican special interests a supermajority in a biased court. In order to prevent this bias from infringing on our democratic rights, critics feel Supreme Court reform is the solution to the problem. But court reform can be a slippery slope and a solution to one problem can make an entirely new problem if we are not careful. So what reforms are on the table? What are the pros and cons? And most importantly, is Supreme Court reform the only solution to the current dilemma?

Progressive group Demand Justice has outlined some steps to enacting Supreme Court reform. First, they argue for adding four additional seats to the Supreme Court. According to the group, this is the simplest way to re-balance the court. The Constitution does not explicitly state the number of judges on the Supreme Court, meaning Congress has the authority to change the number of judges at any time. In fact, this has been done seven times already throughout U.S. history. Adding seats seems like an easy fix to re-balance an unbalanced Supreme Court, but the reality is more complicated. For example, if we set the precedent now that it is okay to add seats when you don’t like the make up of the court, what is stopping the next administration adding even more seats to tip the court in their favor? It’s hard to deny the idea to expand the Supreme Court now is a play to make a conservative court more liberal to match the current Democratic administration. If this measure is successful, what is stopping the next Republican administration adding seats again to move the make up of the court back in there favor? It would be especially hard for Democrats to fight such a move when Republicans can argue they are just following the same rules Democrats used in the first place. This conundrum makes re-balancing the court through expansion tricky, and ultimately politicizes the court even more than it is now, the very issue that Supreme Court reform is supposed to be fighting.

The second solution proposed by Demand Justice is imposing term limits on Supreme Court Justices. Currently, the position of Supreme Court Justice is a lifetime position. This creates a situation where justices can plan out their retirements at politically opportune times, such as a conservative judge refusing to step down while there is a Democratic administration but retiring as soon as a Republican is elected and sworn in and vice versa. This ensures justices have the ability to choose who picks their replacement and can prevent judges with different views taking their seat. Alternatively, when justices choose not to retire and pass away while still on the court, it can create absolute chaos. An example of this is Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s recent passing.

Ginsburg, a famously liberal justice, passed away during the tail end of former President Donald Trump’s administration. Despite the upcoming election (which Trump would go on to lose), the Trump administration was able to force through the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett. Many Democratic lawmakers protested the appointment, sighting the hypocrisy of Republicans confirming a Supreme Court justice in the middle of an election when just four years earlier they tried to prevent then President Barack Obama from confirming Merrick Garland as a Supreme Court justice, saying the American people had a right to have a say in the decision and any appointment should be made after the election. Imposing term limits would certainly prevent this kind of chaos in the future.

Term limits would certainly solve some issues with the current state of the Supreme Court, but they leave questions to be asked as well. First and foremost is, what length should the term be? ..............

..........Read the full article in the November edition of Fruitybinature Magazine coming soon!

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