Can President Biden expand the Supreme Court of the United States? A new commission will try to find out
The Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court of the United States will have 6 months to study Supreme Court reform and submit a report to the White House
President Joe Biden is investigating the possibility — and public opinion — of expanding the Supreme Court of the United States.
On Friday, Biden signed the “Executive Order on the Establishment of the Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court of the United States,” creating a working group of federal judicial experts to see if “reforming” the nation’s highest court would be a good idea.
Some Democrats have called on the president to expand the Supreme Court after a congressional Republican majority stonewalled President Barack Obama’s final nomination to the bench, and then nominated and confirmed three new, conservative justices during the Trump administration.
Those opposed to expanding the Supreme Court have accused those in favor of the idea of “court packing.” Earlier this year, a group of Republican senators revived efforts to create a “constitutional amendment to limit the U.S. Supreme Court to nine justices,” the Deseret News reported.
Per the Constitution, Congress determines the number of justices on the Supreme Court. And while the numerical makeup of Supreme Court justices has changed over time, “the court has had nine seats since 1869,” according to Deseret News.
Here’s what Biden’s executive order says about the new commission and the report it’s tasked with creating:
The commission will have no more than 36 presidentially appointed members — two of whom will serve as co-chairs — and will be made up of “distinguished constitutional scholars, retired members of the federal judiciary, or other individuals having experience with and knowledge of the federal judiciary and the Supreme Court of the United States.”
- “The panel will be led by Bob Bauer, who served as White House counsel for Mr. Obama, and Cristina Rodriguez, a Yale Law School professor who served as deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel under Mr. Obama,” The New York Times reported.
- The president’s new commission will “provide an analysis of the principal arguments in the contemporary public debate for and against Supreme Court reform, including an appraisal of the merits and legality of particular reform proposals,” the White House said in a statement Friday.
The final report
Biden’s executive order gives the commission 180 days — about six months from its first public meeting — to produce a report of its findings for the White House. Along with the experiences of the judicial scholars on the commission, public opinion will also be part of that final report.
- The commission will study “the genesis of the reform debate; the Court’s role in the Constitutional system; the length of service and turnover of justices on the Court; the membership and size of the Court; and the Court’s case selection, rules, and practices,” according to the White House statement.
- “To ensure that the Commission’s report is comprehensive and informed by a diverse spectrum of views, it will hold public meetings to hear the views of other experts, and groups and interested individuals with varied perspectives on the issues it will be examining,” the White House said in Friday’s statement.