[Clip] Reforms for a healthier Supreme Court

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One Change in the World
[Clip] Reforms for a healthier Supreme Court

“What are your suggestions to stop that and to get back to a more healthy Supreme Court, let’s say? Well, in terms of reforming the Supreme Court itself, I do think there are several things we can do. And I talked about these at the end of the book. There’s been a lot of people, particularly Democrats, who have argued for packing the court, that is expanding the size of the Supreme Court from nine to maybe 15. I think that’s a bad idea, actually. Now Congress could do it. There’s nothing in the US Constitution that sets out the number of justices. For a long time early in America’s history, there were six justices on the US Supreme Court. It’s been nine since the mid 1800s. But Congress could pass a law to change that. So although the Democrats, if they controlled Congress and the presidency, could do that, I don’t think it’s a good idea. And the reason is what happens when Republicans take over, then they would pass a new law to increase the courts to 21. And then Democrats come back and say, okay, we got to go up to 27 and it just goes back and forth. So I think we need to look at other structural reforms to the court. One idea is term limits. Right now, Supreme Court justices serve for life. I think if we adopted 18 year term limits, that would have a natural rotation where every presidential term gets two presidential nominations to the court, basically one every two years. I think that would be a lot healthier than the situation where you have justices serving for 20, 30 years. Another reform is I think perhaps over time, we could increase the size of the court, but then have them sit in panels. So the US Courts of Appeals, the kind of mid-level review court before a case might make it to the US Supreme Court does this. So they have, there’s 11 numbered circuit courts of appeals, one through 11, and also the DC circuit, which hears cases out of Washington DC. But those courts are multi-membered, say, you know, the Fifth Circuit, which covers Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi has 17 judges on it, but they sit in three judge panels to hear cases, a random draw of three judges. Why don’t we do that for the US Supreme Court as well? Another idea would be to let some of those Court of Appeals judges sit occasionally on the US Supreme Court. It’s called sitting by designation. I’ve been more regular rotation of people who hear these cases. Why that I think that would work is because it would take away the focus on the identity of the justices and make the decisions more about the law, not who’s on the court. Right now, we have a 6-3 conservative majority in any high profile case, whether it’s about abortion or same-sex marriage or, or gun rights, for example, maybe not same-sex marriage, because I think that has really been accepted now much more in a mainstream American society. But, you know, abortion rights, for example, a hot button issue, we can pretty much predict how the court’s going to come down, it’s most likely going to be 6-3 on ideological lines. If we had a regular rotation or a court sitting in panels, the decisions would be much less predictable. And you would have, I think, a focus more on the law than on the identity. Because at the end, all these ideas are to just depoliticize, make it less politicize, less about politics and personal opinions, and more about looking at the law, the constitution. That’s right.
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