Former Democratic state attorneys general are pushing back against a bid by liberal activists to expand the Supreme Court and the Democratic Party’s commitment to overhaul the federal judiciary in a potential Biden administration next year.
Liberal activists successfully got the Democratic Party to “commit to creating new federal district and circuit judgeships” in the Democratic Party Platform adopted this week, and they want to expand the Supreme Court as well.
Several former Democratic state attorneys general and congressmen have organized a new effort to ensure that the court-packing platform never becomes law and the U.S. Supreme Court does not expand the number of justices on the bench.
“Court-packing by one party would almost inevitably lead to retaliatory court-packing by another party, undermining the independence of the [Supreme C]ourt and potentially the Rule of Law itself,” said Andrew Miller, former Virginia attorney general, in a statement.
Mr. Miller is one of six former Democratic state attorneys general and seven former Democratic and Republican congressmen that mobilized this month in support of a “Keep Nine” amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would limit the number of justices on the U.S. Supreme Court to nine.
While many members of the coalition fighting against expanding the Supreme Court are Democrats, the group has touted successfully courting right-leaning allies such as former Republicans Reps. Tom Davis of Virginia and Cliff Stearns of Florida.
“Protecting the independence of the Courts should not become a partisan issue,” said Stephen Rosenthal, another former Virginia attorney general and Democrat, in a statement.
The path to a constitutional amendment that would cap the number of justices or judges is steep, but the politics of the federal judiciary could help candidates seeking election in November.
Former Rep. Nick Rahall, West Virginia Democrat who served from 1977-2015 in Congress, said he thinks support for capping the size of the Supreme Court at nine justices ought to be a winning issue for candidates on both sides of the aisle in the upcoming election.
The Supreme Court has limited the number of justices to nine since 1869 following congressional action, which was done to match the number of existing federal circuit courts, according to the Federal Judicial Center.
While liberal activists have called for expanding the number of Supreme Court justices beyond nine since President Trump appointed two justices, left-leaning Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg spoke out against court-packing in 2019 and told NPR that she does not think the Supreme Court needs more justices.