Biden 'Court-Packing Commission' Holds 1st Meeting, Pledges to Study 'Size of the Court'

Michael Foust | Contributor | Thursday, May 20, 2021
Biden 'Court-Packing Commission' Holds 1st Meeting, Pledges to Study 'Size of the Court'

Biden 'Court-Packing Commission' Holds 1st Meeting, Pledges to Study 'Size of the Court'

A controversial commission formed by President Biden to study possible Supreme Court reform and expansion held its first public meeting Wednesday and gave an overview of its purpose, although it adjourned after barely 20 minutes.

The 36-member Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court of the United States, dubbed the "court-packing commission" by critics, held a brief virtual introductory meeting with no expert testimony or questions, saving those for future sessions. The commission is expected to hold six meetings.

Debate over the Supreme Court intensified during the Trump administration when three new justices were confirmed, including Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who is thought to be considerably more conservative than her predecessor. Some Democrats and liberal groups favor adding seats to the nine-member court – an action that presumably could tilt the court to the left for generations.

Co-chair Cristina Rodriguez on Wednesday said the commissioners are not "charged with making specific recommendations," but rather, "we are to provide an evaluation of the merits and legality of particular reform proposals being debated today, many of which have historical antecedents."

Still, the commissioners gave a hint of the controversial subjects they will examine, including court-packing.

"We're going to consider the proposals ... for the membership and size of the court, and the strength and ... weaknesses of the various proposals," said commission member Nancy Gertner, a former district judge.

Gertner added that the commission will look at current proposals for expanding the court but "also proposals about membership and size that have been floated at other times in American history," including in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

"What do these proposals teach us about what we should be doing at this time?" she asked, describing the commission's task. "And then we'll look at current proposals to expand the scope, expand the membership and size of the Supreme Court, and whether those proposals require other reforms. An expanded court, for example, might require a panel system for deciding cases. An expanded court couldn't possibly sit on all cases all the time. We'll evaluate proposals to change the composition of the court, including a proposal for a lottery of judges in rotating panels drawn from appellate court judges."

Rodriguez, a professor at Yale Law School, said it's "crucial" that the commission not just summarize arguments but instead "critically evaluate arguments and claims."

"And in that process, the president has expressly charged us with considering a broad spectrum of ideas," she said.

A report from the commission is due within 180 days.


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Video courtesy: The White House

Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chroniclethe Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.