The number of Supreme Court Justices has been set to nine since the Judiciary Act of 1869, but lately Democrats — seemingly inspired by “This Is Spinal Tap” — want to turn it all the way up to 11.
It is unclear who first proposed the idea of court packing — passing legislation to increase the number of Justices on the Supreme Court and subsequently adding more favorable Justices for a majority — but the idea has caught wind among prominent liberal outlets including Slate, Jacobin Magazine, The New Republic and The Outline:
Under a Democratic president, Democrats in Congress should increase the number of Supreme Court seats to at least 11. https://t.co/TtxL44jCwN
— The Outline (@outline) June 28, 2018
This is dangerous.
Packing the Court is a refusal to acknowledge three branches of government and a dismissal of the fundamental checks and balances framework of the democratic process. Packing the Supreme Court is nothing short of authoritarianism.
This isn’t the first time the proposal to pack the Supreme Court by adding more Justices has been declared.
In 1937, during the nation’s recovery from the Great Depression, four-term Democratic President Franklin Roosevelt became increasingly frustrated with the conservative Supreme Court, which blocked much of his policy.
FDR was so certain he had the right policy to pull the United States out of the Depression, he proposed adding Justices to the Supreme Court to ensure this roadblock would turn into a mere hurdle.
Interestingly, FDR’s proposal was held up in the Democratic-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee by Democratic committee chair Henry F. Ashurst. The bill was seen as political maneuvering — which it ultimately was — and was not passed.
Would the same happen today?
It’s better not to think about it.