US President Joe Biden on Friday issued an executive order (9) that creates a bipartisan commission to study reforms to the Supreme Court. Thus, it fulfills its electoral promise to analyze proposals to increase the number of judges to the Court or to set term limits.
The Democrat is also under pressure after former President Donald Trump appointed three judges during his tenure, including ultra-conservative Amy Coney Barrett, confirmed by the Senate to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg just days before the presidential election from last year.
A progressive icon, Ginsburg died aged 87 in September 2020, giving the Republican a chance to expand the Tory majority in court – from 5 to 4 to 6 to 3.
Trump even chose Neil Gorsuch for the chair left empty in 2016, at the end of Barack Obama’s term. After the death of Judge Antonin Scalia, Trump’s predecessor appointed Merrick Garland to replace him, but at the time, the US Senate was controlled by Republicans, who refused to consider the nomination on the grounds that the seat should not be filled in an election. year.
Finally, the Republican nominated Brett Kavanaugh as President Anthony Kennedy, who retired in 2018.
Following Biden’s announcement on Friday, a White House official stressed that committee members represent the entire political spectrum and “intend to study the arguments for and against the proposed reforms. in these areas “- that is, the group should not issue specific recommendations at the end of the study, which should disappoint supporters of court changes.
With the decree, the president creates a 36-person commission to examine the history of the Supreme Court, previous changes in the process of appointing judges and the possible consequences of the enlargement of the court. The group, which includes progressive and conservative lawyers, former federal judges and lawyers, will hold public meetings and have 180 days to report on its findings.
Although Republicans have vehemently opposed increasing the size of the courts, many Democrats and progressive activists say all options must be considered to fight a entrenched conservative majority that could threaten access to healthcare, abortion and civil rights.
Biden, who once served as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and said the judicial appointment system “was getting out of hand,” declined to say whether he supported the expansion of the tribunal, a strategy known as ” court package ”. The number of Supreme Court justices has remained at nine since 1869, but Congress has the power to change the size of the bench and has done so several times before.
The president could have his own chance to shape the tribunal this year if Judge Stephen Breyer retires at the end of his current term. At 82, he is the oldest member of the Supreme Court and belongs to the progressive wing made up of him and two other judges.
Progressive groups are urging him to step down while Democrats still control the Senate and the confirmation process. Breyer, however, warned this week that efforts to expand the tribunal for political reasons could undermine public confidence in the body. “I hope the Court will maintain its authority,” he said. “But this authority depends on the certainty that the tribunal is guided by legal principles and not by politics.”