Biden Commission Seeks An End to Political Entanglements With Supreme Court, But Is the Cure Worse Than the Disease?
As you may know, the Biden administration has appointed a commission to investigate possible reforms to the Supreme Court, investigating, among other things, expanding the number of justices. We at LRI will be (and have been) monitoring the commission's findings and any action taken by the government on that basis, and this week certainly had an interesting development!
A group of congressional Democrats issued a statement criticizing the inactivity of the commission - no great surprise in itself, as plans for court expansion have been floated by the Democratic party for some time. However, as reported by The Hill, the commission is apparently wary of such a move, but there was one curious bit of news:
"[T]he panel indicated that term limits for Supreme Court justices might be worth exploring and acknowledged concerns that 'close identification of Justices with political party could undermine the perception of judicial independence, which is important to the acceptance and compliance with the Court’s decisions.'"
The irony here is that there are few reforms that would do more to embroil the Court in partisan politics than to impose limited terms on sitting justices. Even under the current appointment-for-life system, nominations to the Supreme Court routinely become major elements of presidential elections. Accelerating the rate of turnover in the Court could hardly help!
At LRI, one of our core beliefs is that the legal system must maintain its independence from any particular political program. From that point of view, measures that help insulate the Supreme Court from political pressure, like lifetime appointments, aren't a bug - they're a feature.