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WASHINGTON, D.C. (LifeSiteNews) – The Biden administration’s commission on the Supreme Court dealt a blow to left-wing court-packing proposals in a report last week, arguing that expanding the number of justices on the nation’s highest court “is likely to undermine, rather than enhance, the Supreme Court’s legitimacy.”
The White House’s Supreme Court commission, established by Joe Biden in April, warned in preliminary findings on Thursday that “the risks of court expansion are considerable.”
“Court expansion is likely to undermine, rather than enhance, the Supreme Court’s legitimacy and its role in the constitutional system, and there are significant reasons to be skeptical that expansion would serve democratic values,” the panel’s draft report said.
“There are other reasons to believe expansion efforts might have negative effects on the Supreme Court’s long-term legitimacy or otherwise undermine its role in our legal system,” the report continued. “Court expansion today could lead to a continuous cycle of future expansions.”
“Recent polls suggest that a majority of the public does not support Court expansion. And as even some supporters of Court expansion acknowledged during the Commission’s public hearings, the reform – at least if it were done in the next term and all at once – would be perceived by many as a partisan maneuver,” the commissioners further argued, adding that “if the country and the political system were to be embroiled in repeated fights over court expansion, that alone could harm the Supreme Court’s public reputation.”
The 34-member Supreme Court commission primarily draws from liberal academics, including several appointees of President Barack Obama and a previous legal director of abortion lobby group NARAL. Bob Bauer, Obama’s White House Counsel, co-chairs the initiative, alongside Cristina Rodriguez, who served in the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel during the Obama administration. The commission’s final report is expected next month.
Joe Biden had promised to create a White House panel to examine Supreme Court “reform” while running for president last year, as Senate Republicans moved to confirm Justice Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s third successful nomination to the high court in under four years.
“I will ask them to, over 180 days, come back to me with recommendations as to how to reform the court system, because it’s getting out of whack,” Biden said last October.
The 6-3 conservative majority on high court has prompted calls across the left to curtail the justices’ powers, including by expanding the Supreme Court bench to 13 seats from the current nine, which Congress set in 1869.
The Supreme Court commission tamped down on various reform ideas last week, however. Another report published by the panel on Thursday stressed the risks of congressional override of Supreme Court decisions and limiting the jurisdiction of federal courts.
The commission findings appeared more favorable on 18-year term limits for Supreme Court justices, who hold lifetime appointments according to Article III of the U.S. Constitution. Asked Friday if he supports limiting Supreme Court terms, Biden said “No.”
As a presidential candidate, Biden notably avoided taking a position on expansion of the Supreme Court, saying in October, “You’ll know my opinion on court-packing when the election is over” and that voters didn’t deserve to know his stance before Election Day.
Biden had previously condemned court-packing as a “boneheaded move” while a U.S. senator and referred to President Franklin Roosevelt’s failed attempt to install additional justices in 1937 as a “terrible, terrible mistake.”
‘Disappointment’ to progressives Dems
The Supreme Court Commission’s preliminary reports have drawn flack from the far-left, including among some of Biden’s progressive allies in Congress.
“This report is a disappointment to anyone who’d hoped for a hard-hitting effort to address the Supreme Court’s deep troubles,” Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island said in a statement on Friday.
“The White House Commission on the Supreme Court ‘draft’ misses the mark,” wrote Democrat Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts and a group of top House Democrats, including Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York. “Voting rights, abortion rights, immigration rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and women’s rights are all at stake,” they said. “We must pass legislation to expand the Supreme Court.”
The Supreme Court commission also came under fire from conservatives for not rejecting court-packing proposals more explicitly. “I do really worry that giving as much oxygen as we do” to court expansion “is dangerous and wrong,” reacted one commissioner, Prof. William Baude of the University of Chicago Law School, according to Bloomberg Law.
Two other conservative commissioners, University of Virginia law professor Caleb Nelson and Jack Goldsmith, a Justice Department appointee of President George W. Bush, resigned on Friday after the release of the draft materials, The Epoch Times reported.
The commission reports come weeks before the majority-conservative Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, that could overturn Roe v. Wade. The court enraged Democrats last month after allowing Texas’s new heartbeat law to take effect, prohibiting virtually all abortions in Lone Star State after around six weeks of pregnancy, as well as after upholding an Arizona law that bans ballot harvesting in July.