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Politics Biden's Supreme Court commission 'divided' on adding justices but warns of 'considerable' risk

02:45  15 october  2021
02:45  15 october  2021 Source:   usatoday.com

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Biden commission ' s draft materials on Supreme Court reform show split over adding justices . Published Thu, Oct 14 20216:25 PM EDTUpdated 20 Min Ago. A bipartisan White House commission agreed that Congress has the legal power to expand the Supreme Court , the group' s draft discussion materials said. But the commission , created by President Joe Biden to study proposals to reform the high court , was divided on whether lawmakers should actually do it.

President Joe Biden created a 36-member bipartisan commission to study potential changes to the U. S . Supreme Court , fulfilling a promise he made on the campaign trail. The Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court of the United States will look at “the contemporary public debate for and against Supreme 2. Why a Commission ? President Joe Biden faced intense pressure during his 2020 campaign from progressives to endorse the idea of adding additional justices to the Supreme Court . Progressives seethed as President Donald Trump added three justices , giving conservatives one of

WASHINGTON – A commission created by President Joe Biden to consider structural changes to the Supreme Court is "divided" on the idea of adding justices to the nation's highest bench but warned of "considerable drawbacks" to the proposal in a draft report Thursday.

As had been expected, the 36-member panel steered clear of policy recommendations and instead offered arguments in support of and against "packing" the court beyond its current nine seats. The group also considered – but did not endorse or oppose – term limits, changes to the court's procedures and judicial ethics.

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The commission ' s initial report to President Biden on potential court changes is expected soon. The draft comes as the Supreme Court is under heightened political scrutiny and has begun a term filled with divisive issues, including abortion, the Second Amendment and religious liberty. Composed of 36 legal scholars, lawyers and former federal judges, the Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court has held more than 17 hours of discussions across three meetings in a five-month span.

A commission set up by President Joe Biden to explore potential changes to the US Supreme Court released draft materials Thursday addressing a number topics related to the court , punting on the big-ticket issues but calling for further transparency.

"The risks of court expansion are considerable, including that it could undermine the very goal of some of its proponents of restoring the court's legitimacy," the report said. "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."

a wooden bench in front of a building: The Supreme Court. © J. Scott Applewhite, AP The Supreme Court.

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The draft document lands at a precarious moment for the court, as a series of polls indicate a precipitous drop in public support for the institution – particularly among Democrats – and several high-profile decisions have placed the court's conservatives in line with Republicans on policy matters, prompting an outcry on the left.

Why Latinos need Supreme Court reform

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Biden signed an executive order in April creating the commission . The commission is looking at the issue of expanding beyond the current nine justices or creating a fixed term for justices instead of lifetime appointments. WASHINGTON, Oct 13 (Reuters) - President Joe Biden ' s commission studying potential U. S . Supreme Court changes such as expanding the number of justices or imposing term limits on them will release its preliminary draft report on Thursday, the White House said on Wednesday.

In April, President Biden established a commission to study these and other potential changes to the high court . The draft comes as the Supreme Court is under heightened political scrutiny and has begun a term filled with divisive issues, including abortion, the Second Amendment and religious liberty. Composed of 36 legal scholars, lawyers and former federal judges, the Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court has held more than 17 hours of discussions across three meetings in a five-month span.

The report also comes as the court is barreling ahead into its most politically touchy term in years, with the potential to overturn the right to abortion created in the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision and upend a New York gun licensing regime making it far easier for millions of Americans to obtain and carry handguns.

Earlier: Biden’s Supreme Court commission already facing resistance from the left

The commission was created in response to a push from some on the left to grow the size of the court to offset the influence of the three justices nominated by President Donald Trump, giving conservatives a 6-3 supermajority for the first time in decades.

While the draft report ostensibly doesn't take sides, it does give Biden and centrist Democrats plenty of ammunition to use if they decide not to pursue such changes.

It also drew criticism from both sides of the political spectrum.

Supreme Court justices can look each other in the eye again

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Progressives have urged President Biden to consider adding seats to the Supreme Court after President Donald J. Trump solidified the court ’ s conservative majority with his three appointments.Credit Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times. Justice Breyer, 82, is the oldest member of the court and the senior member of its three- justice liberal wing. Progressive groups are becoming increasingly aggressive in demanding that he step aside while Democrats still control the Senate and the confirmation process. But Justice Breyer warned this week that efforts to expand the

Biden has not yet completed 100 days of his presidency and, judging by his actions as well as his inaction, he is on course to go down as the most hyper-partisan and divisive president in American history. Although the Supreme Court can technically be expanded by an act of Congress, “ court packing” is seen as a political weapon by one party that seeks to shape and tilt the ideological balance of the court in their favor. It has traditionally been highly frowned upon by both political parties, as history has shown us through the failed attempt by President Franklin Roosevelt, at the height of his

"This was not even close to being worth the wait," said Brian Fallon, executive director of Demand Justice, a progressive group that supports changes at the court. "From the beginning, the purpose of this commission was not to meaningfully confront the partisan capture of the Supreme Court, but rather to buy time for the Biden administration."

Conservatives criticized what they framed as a "far left" drive to expand the court.

“Americans reject remaking the judiciary – especially the Supreme Court of the United States – into another partisan body," said Kelly Shackelford, president of First Liberty Institute.

Made up largely of academics, the commission noted several possible benefits of growing the court: Greater diversity, the ability to handle more cases, and the possibility of restoring "balance" in its ideology. Expansion, the report's authors write, "could bolster the institution's legitimacy and effectiveness."

Biden has sent repeated signals that he has little interest in spending political capital on increasing the number of justices on the Supreme Court. The creation of the commission itself has widely been viewed as an effort to keep that idea at arm's length, even as Republicans have used it to fire up their political base and goose fundraising.

Stephen Breyer says now isn't the time to lose faith in the Supreme Court

  Stephen Breyer says now isn't the time to lose faith in the Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer is not giving up on the Supreme Court. © CNN Justice Stephen Breyer In a wide-ranging interview with CNN on Wednesday, the senior liberal justice expressed caution about some of the ideas raised before the presidential commission studying the Supreme Court, asserted the importance of people accepting rulings they dislike, and insisted that despite the discord seen recently in opinions, the justices get along. "It's an institution that's fallible, though over time it has served this country pretty well," he said.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said this week that the president would not comment on the commission's work until it submits a final report next month.

While a number of progressive groups largely dismissed the commission months ago, some advocates for structural change at the court have said they hope the group's work will at least prompt a discussion – if not about increasing the number of justices then perhaps about more incremental adjustments, such as greater transparency.

"There may not be discrete recommendations in the materials, per se, but the draft highlights the benefits of several popular Supreme Court reforms, including term limits," said Gabe Roth, executive director of Fix the Court, a nonpartisan group that advocates for transparency in the judiciary. "I expect the justices are paying attention to this discussion, and so are their friends in Congress."

Some have suggested the idea of term limits for the justices rather than the lifetime tenure they currently enjoy. Others have talked about a code of conduct, a formal recusal process for when justices beg off cases and more transparency about the court's resolution of emergency appeals fast-tracked on its so-called shadow docket, like its rulings in the Texas abortion case, on the Biden eviction moratorium and a host of COVID-19 restrictions.

Biden's commission on Supreme Court reforms examines adding more justices and setting term limits

  Biden's commission on Supreme Court reforms examines adding more justices and setting term limits The commissioners "are divided on whether court expansion would be wise," they wrote in their draft report.The commissioners wrote they are "divided" on whether a reform proposal that has sparked national debate, adding more justices to the nine-member bench, "would be wise.

Many of those ideas have had bipartisan support in the past. Earlier this year, House Republicans seemed open to requiring more information from the court on how it handles expedited cases. But that bonhomie seemed to evaporate at a hearing on the other side of the Capitol this month. There, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, accused Democrats of a "shameful broadside...to attack judicial independence."

Some of the justices themselves have echoed that sentiment.

"The catchy and sinister term 'shadow docket' has been used to portray the court as having been captured by a dangerous cabal that resorts to sneaky and improper methods to get its ways," Associate Justice Samuel Alito said at Notre Dame Law School late last month. "And this portrayal feeds unprecedented efforts to intimidate the court or damage it as an independent institution."

The court's expedited docket has come under criticism because of both the frequency of cases and the complexity of rulings, which are often handed down late at night without thorough explanation or a clear accounting of how each justice voted. There are also increasing questions about how much weight lower courts should give those rulings.

"Instead of waiting another month for the commission to finalize its research paper, President Biden should immediately announce a concrete plan to defend his agenda and Americans’ fundamental rights from the right wing justices' assault," said Sarah Lipton-Lubet, executive director of Take Back the Court, which favors an expansion.

Supreme Court commission talks positively of shorter terms

  Supreme Court commission talks positively of shorter terms WASHINGTON (AP) — A commission tasked with studying potential changes to the Supreme Court released a first look Thursday night at its review, a draft report that is cautious in discussing proposals for expanding the court but also speaks approvingly of term limits for justices. The 36-member bipartisan commission, largely composed of academics, has been studying court reform and holding hearings, but it was not charged with making recommendations under the White House order that created it. As a result, much of the some 200 pages of materials the commission released are history and context for reform proposals.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden's Supreme Court commission 'divided' on adding justices but warns of 'considerable' risk

Supreme Court Commission Seems to Favor Term Limits for Justices but Not Court Packing .
The commission said the proposal of imposing term limits on Supreme Court justices had "the most widespread and bipartisan support."Under the Constitution, Supreme Court justices have life tenure, but the commission described term limits as the proposal that appears to have "the most widespread and bipartisan support.

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