President Biden will today issue an executive order forming the Presidential Commission to study Supreme Court changes such as adding seats, an idea pushed by progressives in his party that faces strong opposition from congressional Republicans.
This will comprised of a bipartisan group of experts on the Court and the Court reform debate. In addition to legal and other scholars, the Commissioners includes former federal judges and practitioners who have appeared before the Court, as well as advocates for the reform of democratic institutions and of the administration of justice. The expertise represented on the Commission includes constitutional law, history and political science.
The purpose of the Commission is to provide an analysis of the principal arguments in the contemporary public debate for and against Supreme Court reform, including an appraisal of the merits and legality of particular reform proposals. The topics it will examine include the genesis of the reform debate; the Court’s role in the Constitutional system; the length of service and turnover of justices on the Court; the membership and size of the Court; and the Court’s case selection, rules, and practices.
During his campaign Biden said that he would create a bipartisan commission to study expanding the court or creating term limits for justices. Republicans have criticized what they say are proposals to “pack” the court by adding members, with the court holding a conservative 6-3 majority following President Donald Trump’s presidency.
The 36-member commission will be charged with completing its findings within 180 days of its first public meeting and will preside over a fraught political moment for the future of the nation’s high court.
It will hold public meetings to hear the views of other experts and to ensure that the Commission’s report is comprehensive and informed by a diverse spectrum of views and groups and interested individuals with varied perspectives on the issues it will be examining. The Executive Order directs that the Commission complete its report within 180 days of its first public meeting. This action is part of the Administration’s commitment to closely study measures to improve the federal judiciary, including those that would expand access the court system.
The two co-chairs of this Commission are Bob Bauer, Professor of Practice and Distinguished Scholar in Residence at New York University School of Law and a former White House Counsel, as well as Yale Law School Professor Cristina Rodriguez, former Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel at the U.S. Department of Justice.
New York Times reported on Friday that President Biden will order a 180-day study of adding seats to the Supreme Court, making good on a campaign-year promise to establish a bipartisan commission to examine the potentially explosive subjects of expanding the court or setting term limits for justices, White House officials said, the president acted under pressure from activists pushing for more seats to alter the ideological balance of the court after President Donald J. Trump appointed three justices, including one to a seat that Republicans had blocked his predecessor, Barack Obama, from filling for almost a year.”
Biden issued his executive order that will create a 36-member commission to look into potential consequences of changing the size of the court.
“The issue of whether to alter the size of the court, which has been set at nine members since just after the Civil War, is highly charged, particularly at a moment when Congress is almost evenly divided between the two parties. An attempt by Mr. Biden to increase the number of justices would require approval of Congress and would be met by fierce opposition,” the Times report continues.