July 30, 2021

Report: Biden administration’s Supreme Court commission is pushing for judicial term limits

The Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court held its second public meeting this week, and it appears that its members are leaning towards judicial term limits a means to create vacancies for Democrat nominees to fill, rather than pushing the idea of expanding the court beyond nine members, as the Washington Times reports.

Created via executive order earlier this year, the panel tapped by President Joe Biden is charged with examining topics such as “the genesis of the [court] reform debate; the Court’s role in the Constitutional system; the length of service and turnover on the Court; the membership and size of the Court; and the Court’s case selection, rules and practices.”

Though the commission is not expected to produce a final report on its deliberations and its findings until later this year, the hours of discussion produced by Wednesday’s meeting yielded some hints about where the group of supposed experts from the political and legal realms is likely to end up.

At this most recent gathering, a number of commission members touted the potential benefits of instituting an 18-year term limit for justices on the high court, with Arizona State University law professor Ilan Wurman declaring that imposing such a staggered limit on jurists at this level and “fixing the court at nine justices,” was likely the “most plausible of all available reforms,” the Times noted.

Harvard Kennedy School political scientist Maya Sen also advocated for term limits of one form or another, suggesting that they could “represent a powerful tool” to help reverse the trend of highly partisan, highly politicized nomination battles seen in recent years.

There was rather less interest expressed in the idea of growing the court beyond its current size, something for which progressive advocates and lawmakers have been agitating for quite some time. Commission member and Harvard University law professor Noah Feldman opined, “We collectively have much more to gain by preserving the institutional legitimacy of the Supreme Court than by breaking it.”

As The Hill also noted, the far-left push to pack the court does seem to be losing traction among the presidential commission, much to the chagrin of people like Brian Fallon, executive director of Demand Justice, an advocacy group formed in support of radical reformation of the court system.

“I think the deference to academics in terms of the makeup of this commission combined with the lack of authority to make actual policy recommendations makes this commission rather toothless,” Fallon said, adding, “In its design, I think it’s been set up to come up well short of endorsing anything bold or meaningful.”

While Democrats may be acknowledging the high hurdle they face in terms of actually growing the size of the Supreme Court, with their frustrations boiling over about Justice Stephen Breyer’s seeming reluctance to agree to a ideologically strategic retirement to facilitate confirmation of a like-minded replacement, it seems likely that the concept of judicial term limits as a means to secure advantageous vacancies will indeed remain part of the discussion.

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