What’s the deal with court packing?
December 2, 2020
If you’ve watched either of the presidential debates or even some interviews of Joe Biden, you probably have heard the term Court Packing. For people that don’t follow politics, or are interested but don’t know much about the topic, you might not know what court-packing is. Some questions a lot of people are asking are, “What does court-packing mean”, “Is court-packing a good or bad thing”, or maybe even “Is court-packing legal.”
With court-packing being such a hot topic in politics at the moment, here are some of the details about the subject. Court-packing is a term people have been using to describe adding more seats to the supreme court. Currently, there are nine seats on the supreme court, four seats for democrats, four seats for republicans, and one seat for an independent/tiebreaker. The president nominates people to the court, and those nominated and accepted are on the court for life, or until they retire.
If a sitting president of the United States were to add more seats to the Supreme Court it would massively affect the power balance in the favor of which party added the seats. This would be a good turnout for one party but a very bad outcome for the opposite party. Let’s say the president adds 6 seats to the court, then there would 15 seats. This doesn’t sound like much of a difference, and it still allows for an even court, 7 republican seats, 7 democrat seats, and an independent seat. While on paper this scenario would seem like it wouldn’t cause much of a difference, but the president that added those 6 seats could then nominate 6 new people to the court. If the 6 people nominated were confirmed then the supreme court would be unbalanced with 1o seats for one party, and only 4 seats for the opposite party. Keep in mind that these justices serve for life, so any future president of the opposite political party would have an unfair disadvantage in the supreme court.
If the idea of court-packing seems unfair at all to the opposite party, you might question if it’s even legal to add new seats to the supreme court. The truth is, yes, court-packing is one-hundred percent legal. National Geographic says, “The U.S. Supreme Court changed size seven times in its first 80 years, from as few as five justices to as many as 10 before settling at its current number in 1869”. As you can see, adding or removing supreme court seats is legal and constitutional, although some may argue it’s immoral and would only be used for partisan issues.
Court-packing and adding seats to the supreme court aren’t new ideas and have been around since the start of the U.S. government. It is 100% legal to add seats, although it could be used as a sneaky partisan attack. The topic of court-packing will continue to be a hot spot in politics, especially with the next few months after the election. With so many changes to the number of seats, the future of the supreme court is uncertain.