With the recent controversial and highly partisan confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, it is important now more than ever to increase the size of the Supreme Court.
The court is currently packed with six conservative justices, leaving only three liberal justices. This allows the court to make any decision in a partisan way. In order to prevent the court from making partisan decisions, increasing the size of the Supreme Court would promote fairness when life-changing decisions are being made.
This divide is the result of the hyper-partisan political maneuvering behind the last three appointments, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016, McConnell refused to move forward with hearings to confirm Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s nomination to replace Scalia. McConnell held the seat open for more than a year until new President Donald Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch in 2017.
This was followed by the contentious nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, who was confirmed with the lowest level of Senate support in history in 2018.
Barrett’s confirmation last week was rushed by McConnell and accompanied by public statements from Trump that her confirmation was essential to ensure his victory in lawsuits he intended to file following Tuesday’s presidential election.
These three joined a court that also included Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, both appointed by President George W. Bush. That means that five of the current nine justices were appointed by presidents who had lost the popular vote in their elections. This, along with public opinion polls showing the unpopularity of many of the court’s recent decisions, shows that the make-up of the court does not reflect the will of the public.
The number of Supreme Court justices is not fixed by the Constitution. There is no reason for the Supreme Court to continue to consist of nine justices. Historical precedence shows that the number of justices has fluctuated since the Supreme Court was first established in 1789. The court started with six justices, and its membership fluctuated between five and 10 for most of the following century. By 1869, the number had settled to nine. However, since then, the court has operated with eight justices for several extended periods during vacancies, most recently in 2016-2017 while McConnell played politics with Scalia’s empty seat.
A reasonable solution would be to tie the number of Supreme Court seats to the number of regional U.S. Courts of Appeals, with Supreme Court justices being selected from each regional court to ensure broad geographic representation. As the size of the country has grown, so have the number of regional courts, which currently stands at 13. As the second-highest level of the federal judiciary has expanded to support the growth of the United States, so should the highest court in the land.
With how divisive politics is in today’s political climate, having accurate representation is of the utmost importance, especially when the Supreme Court makes decisions that affect everyone. The call for increasing the size of the Supreme Court is the best possible way to accommodate the climate we are currently in.