Media representatives have settled in front of the US Supreme Court building in Washington.
Al Drago | Reuters
President Joe Biden will instruct a bipartisan commission on Friday to investigate a number of potential reforms before the US Supreme Court, including the politically volatile question of whether the Supreme Court should expand.
The new commission, made up of dozens of legal scholars and others, will also examine the “length of service and sales of judges,” the White House said on Friday in a press release announcing the executive’s order.
The group will hold public meetings to “hear different perspectives on the issues it will examine,” and publish a report within 180 days of the first meeting, the White House said.
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“This move is part of the administration’s commitment to scrutinize measures to improve federal justice, including those that would widen access [to] the court system, “says the press release.
The order marks the fulfillment of Biden’s election promise to convene a group of experts to investigate the myriad debates over the structure of the Supreme Court.
Then-candidate Biden had refused to explicitly ruled out the idea of putting members on the nine-seat bench, which upset Republicans who opposed the prospect of “court wrapping” by the president.
In addition to the size of the Supreme Court and the length of its service, the commission will look at issues as broad as the court’s role in the US constitutional system, according to the press release. It will also look at the “genesis of the reform debate” and the court’s “selection, rules and practices of cases,” the White House said.
Judges who have been sustained on the Supreme Court serve life-long appointments, and the court’s opinions are decided by a majority.
Former President Donald Trump selected three associate judges in one term and swung the court’s ideological makeup sharply to the right. Trump’s last candidate, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, was sworn in just eight days before the election when Trump lost to Biden.
The court’s solidly conservative 6-3 majority could last for years.
Biden, as a presidential candidate, had thought carefully about whether or not he would even have a debate about enlarging the court.
The death of the liberal justice icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg last September triggered a political firestorm. Trump and Republicans struggled to occupy their seat before election day, and Democrats called for the selection process to be delayed.
Ahead of the polls, the GOP warned that if elected, Biden would try to pack the dishes while the progressives are pressuring Biden to commit to doing just that.
In October, Biden said he was “not a fan of court packaging,” adding, “I don’t want to get off on this whole matter.”
The White House said Friday the new commission will be co-chaired by New York University School of Law professor and former White House attorney Bob Bauer and Yale Law School professor Cristina Rodriguez.