Opinions

Packing the Court: An Irrational Move

Joe Barbieri ’23

Opinions Editor

On Oct. 26, Judge Amy Coney Barrett officially became Justice Amy Coney Barrett after Senate Republicans voted to confirm her nomination to the Supreme Court. As the confirmation further tilted the Court to the conservative side, many Democrats have floated the radical idea of potentially packing the Court in the future with liberal justices.

This strategy is not only dangerous in and of itself, but it is also the wrong approach for Democrats going forward. Instead of focusing on packing the Court, Democrats should focus their attention on winning the majority of the seats in the Senate. 

As Republicans have held control of the Senate since the 2014 Midterm Elections, they have had all the say in the legislation and judicial nominees that are considered. This was the case with President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, as he did not even receive a hearing on his nomination. 

While Democrats have been able to win back the House of Representatives, it is key to win back the Senate if they want to compete with Republicans. 

Just imagine what could have happened had Democrats won back the Senate in the last four years: Judge Garland would have certainly been confirmed and two other Supreme Court vacancies could have also been filled with liberal judges. As a matter of fact, the impeachment trial of President Trump could have resulted in a different verdict. 

The focus of Democrats should be on pouring money and support behind Democratic candidates that have a good shot of flipping seats currently held by Republicans. Races in Arizona and South Carolina are good examples. 

However, the strategy of packing the Supreme Court is without a doubt a desperate move that will not swing key voters. To swing undecided voters, Democrats should focus on issues such as healthcare and the fact that Republicans have yet to release an effective plan to counter the Affordable Care Act. 

Also important to remember is that packing the Supreme Court has already been attempted. When his New Deal legislation kept getting struck down by the Supreme Court, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt tried to add more liberal justices to the bench to pass this legislation. 

This attempt by the president faced instant opposition. Congress never voted on the Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937, and the majority of public opinion never supported the bill. Even Chief Justice Charles Evan Hughes was against the plan, as he testified before Congress asserting that the Court was up to date in its work. 

A Supreme Court Justice is also expected to act independently of any partisan preference, as they swore an oath to apply fair and impartial justice in their rulings. In the case of President Trump’s previous court appointments, both Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh have shown that they are independent of any partisan platform. 

As a matter of fact, Justice Gorsuch recently sided twice with the liberal side, including a case that determined that the eastern half of Oklahoma remains Native American land territory. 

In the case of President Trump’s taxes, both Justice Gorsuch and Kavanaugh ruled against the President, ruling that the Manhattan District Attorney does have the authority to pursue the President’s personal and business financial records.

When appointing a Supreme Court Justice, one cannot expect them to vote like a robot. They must trust and use their judgment in deciding cases. 

Going forward, if Democrats want to have a hand in shaping the Supreme Court, they must focus on winning elections, not packing the court. In the words of President Obama, “Elections have consequences.”

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