Judicial Packing

2020 has been a year full of the unprecedented: an unprecedented level of political unrest, an unprecedented pandemic, an unprecedented climate crisis, and an unprecedented presidential election. This election is problematic and difficult for so many voters in countless ways. Both of the presidential nominees would be the oldest candidates ever elected into office,  making the vice presidential race even more critical in the case of a death of the president. On Oct. 8, the only VP debate took place, and countless issues (and memes) arose. Vice President Mike Pence asked Senator Kamala Harris an especially difficult question: “Are you and Joe Biden going to pack the court if Judge Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed?” (NBC News). Senator Harris cleverly found a way around answering this question and the topic was quickly overshadowed. While both Biden and Harris have refused to speak on the possibility of judicial packing, they have not rejected it either. But the issue of possible judicial packing, another unprecedented action, is imperative to consider as its effects would impact Americans for centuries to come.

After the death of Honorable Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the supreme court is left with eight filled seats, five right leaning and three left leaning. The confirmation of Judge Coney Barret filling the vacant seat aggressively tips the scale right, from a four left-wing, four right wing, and one moderate bench, leaving our Supreme Court with a strong conservative majority. At the time of Justice Amy Coney Barret’s nomination there were just over two weeks until the election, and Senate democrats fought this nomination due to problematic timing. Democrats argued, “the Republicans are seeking to rush through a nominee in the heat of a presidential election…” (Jackson). Early voting had already begun, democrats argued, thus it is undemocratic to appoint a supreme court justice. They affirmed that the election on November 4th is not just an election for the President and Vice President, it is an election for our next Supreme Court Justice. 

Now knowing the outcome of the election, we are be able to tell that the American people are against this appointment. The confirmation of Justice Coney Barrett puts our democracy into question. Now that she is confirmed and President Trump is not the President Elect, the confirmation is not the wish of Americans. 

The confirmation of Justice Coney Barrett leaves former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris in a difficult position. Democrats on the hill have been tossing the terms “court packing” and “judicial packing” to the media (Godfrey). While Biden and Harris haven’t explicitly denied the possibility that they will pack the Supreme Court, they have not accepted it either. Respecting our highest courts and its values is integral to American values, and it is critical that Biden and Harris speak out against the possibility of court packing. The last attempt at restructuring the Supreme Court was The Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937, “frequently called the “court-packing plan”. This Bill was an initiative proposed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, which sought to add more justices to the U.S. Supreme Court (Parrish). While the Constitution does not limit the number of Justices to nine, this number has been respected by numerous Presidents and has become the status quo. To change the number of Justices, the President must submit a Bill to congress and it must pass in both the House and Senate  to become law. Democrats currently hold a House majority, and now that President Trump is not the next president-elect, Biden and Harris have an opportunity to pack the courts. There is one major “if” that must fall into place in order for the supreme court to be packed. As of now, Justice Coney Barrett has been confirmed into the Supreme Court, Former Vice President Joe Biden is current President Elect, but the last piece is if Biden, as President-elect, would finally take a stance on packing the court.

The United States is built on the ideal of separation of powers, and to assume Biden does not respect American ideals is an insult on the last fourty-seven years of his career. However, does he believe that his agenda is more beneficial to the United States than the number of Supreme Court Justices? No one knows. 

It’s imperative that we consider the possible implications of this happening, as it could occur within the next two months. The first impact that is of utmost importance is the social unrest that will follow packing the court. This year has been filled with protests associated with Black Lives Matter, climate change, and Covid-19. While these protesters are exercising their first amendment rights, the protests have also expanded the divide in our nation. To think of where we are now, it is hard to imagine the political divide getting any further. If Biden elects to pack the courts, tension between parties is sure to rise even higher. The second impact is the possibility of impeachment. Republicans in the senate will fight hard to remove Biden from office if he does pack the court, arguing treason, or that he is going against the values of his country to further his own agenda. This is unlikely to happen, however impeachment trials hold an immense influence in the media and will take away from policy initiatives. The last impact is setting a precedent. If this were to happen, what stops the next President, republican or democrat, to repack the court? This fear could lead to all hell breaking loose. Many other world powers, such as Britain, China, and Russia have a more stable form of leadership.  The United States will no longer be viewed as world power, but a joke of a democracy. A nation whose leaders trade their agendas for American values every four years, leaving instability and unrest. The implications possible court packing by Biden are of uttermost importance and deserve thought and reflection due to the absence of response from Biden or Harris.

This year has been unprecedented, crises have taken and are taking place all around our Nation. However, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris must step up and reject the possibility of any court packing taking place. They must respect the separation of powers and not attempt to correct a wrong with another wrong. There are many “ifs” in this analysis, but the impact of the small possibility that this occurs is too heavy to ignore. Justice Amy Coney Barrett has been confirmed, Joe Biden is our President Elect, and democrats in the House are expected to pass the “court packing” legislation. Joe Biden’s last forty-seven years in politics have proved difficult but a learning experience. The influence of that experience is what Americans are relying on for Biden to decide and declare that he will not pack the Supreme Court.