Amy Coney Barrett and the Need for a Court Balance

Maggie Connolly ’21

Chief Opinions Editor

This has been a solemn week, to say the least. My heart broke on Monday night when I heard the news that Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed to the Supreme Court less than a week before the election. Now, just a few days before Election Day, there is an even eerier feeling in the air knowing the fate of the Supreme Court lies in both the presidential election and the race for the Senate.

So by now, if you have been following Barrett’s record, you know she is not super interested in protecting the rights of women, Black people, immigrants, or really any other marginalized community in this country. Likewise, she is not a huge fan of the Affordable Care Act, the (arguably flawed, but best option we have) legislation that opens the conversation to moving to a more inclusive, equal healthcare model in this country. I am not here to say it’s perfect, but surely it does not need to be dismantled to improve our growing and changing healthcare system in the middle of a global pandemic.

All that is to say, Amy Coney Barrett is not the judge I hoped or expected might replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg, champion of equality and women’s rights. Newsflash: putting a woman who is starkly anti-feminist, anti-LGBTQ+, anti-Black, and so on in a seat on the Supreme Court is not really the representation we young women are looking for. But alas, Trump never really cared about representation in the first place–that is no secret.

So, what now? We have a 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court with a seat that is now, very evidently, stolen from Merrick Garland occupied by a conservative judge, as well as a woman who could spend the next 50 years of her life making horribly divisive and detrimental decisions for a lot of people in this country. 

There is, however, a solution–and it isn’t called court-packing. Same idea, we have just been saying it wrong: it’s court balancing! That is right – it is in all good fairness that we balance and reform our extremely ancient, archaic Supreme Court system. It comes as a shock to a lot of people that these nine judges that sit on that court until they are on their deathbeds are not actually instructed by the Constitution to do so.

This is one of those awful things in this country that exists the way it does because it has always been that way. If that’s the way we really wanted to operate, we would still have a segregated public school system and women who did not have the right to vote… In some ways, these still ring true in lots of settings, but at least there are rules in the Constitution and court cases that instill that these things should not be true and are therefore unconstitutional.

Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee for president, which I sure hope you all know by now considering the very short amount of time we have before the election, has historically never been behind court packing, or balancing, as we like to call it. However, after evading a few debate questions, most likely as a strategy to not alienate one side or the other and to buy himself some time to wake up to this inherent need to change our rigged Supreme Court system, he committed to a committee. So, what does this mean? Hopefully, it means he gets a group of people together to discuss court reform and what that might look like. 

It is not always as simple as throwing a few more judges on the panel, but more like looking at how institutional and structural reforms might be necessary to keep the court up to date with the direction of the country. One idea might be, I don’t know, not giving cranky old people terms the lengths of their life so they don’t have to spend their dying days holding on until Donald Trump is defeated and we have a competent human being leading this country? Just a thought.So next time, when you might be so quick to scoff at the idea of court packing, I challenge you to reframe the debate in your mind. Ask yourself, why are both sides for and against the issue and how can we come to a conclusion as a country of where to move next if Joe Biden wins and the Democrats take hold of the Senate? And why, above all else, should things just stay the same? Why not move with the country as opposed to keeping it constant with a model that’s older than anyone reading this piece?

Photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Inquirer

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