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The Significance of 'Court Packing'

Michelle Liou

Posted on October 11, 2020 23:29

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In Federalist No. 78, Alexander Hamilton claimed that the Judiciary branch would be the weakest of the three branches as it had "no influence over either the sword or the purse." In other words, the Supreme Court has neither the force to carry out its judgment nor the money to fund itself. The Supreme Court's only responsibility is to interpret law and ensure our rights and liberties. Court-packing would destroy this precedent and threaten the Supreme Court's integrity.

In America's federal judiciary, the Supreme Court is the highest tribunal for all cases and controversies arising under the Constitution and the laws of the United States. The Supreme Court plays an indispensable role in our government system. In essence, the Court protects our civil rights and ensures that the views of a majority do not subvert core values common to all Americans. 

Recently, matters regarding the Supreme Court have emerged as a talking point in the media and among voters. Following the passing of then Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, President Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett to fill the vacancy. If Congress confirms Amy Coney Barrett, conservatives would have a "majority" of six jurists to three liberal justices in the Supreme Court. Democrats are well aware of this plausible dynamic and have been attempting to prevent the nomination and delegitimize the candidate.

Progressive Democrats, meanwhile, are now advocating a radical idea: If Barrett is confirmed by January, and Democrats win back the Senate and Executive in November, then Democrats should appoint additional Justices to the Supreme Court, a procedure known as court-packing.

The motive behind this is evident: shift the ideological balance of the Supreme Court to align the institution with left-wing goals. However, the Court is not a partisan legislature, but an impartial judiciary whose sole responsibility is to interpret the law. As Amy Coney Barrett stated in her Supreme Court hearing, "The Court is not designed to solve every problem and right every wrong." Ultimately, judicial humility, or faithfully interpreting the law, should be the intention of all judges. Regardless of partisan balance, the Supreme Court remains the objective defender of our rights and democracy.

Court-packing would undermine this repute, as the notion that judges are more than mere partisan agents would be impossible to preserve. Furthermore, court-packing would trigger a chain reaction, as whichever party loses leverage will be emboldened to court-pack, leading to the deterioration of the Supreme Court's integrity. In the end, court-packing would turn the Supreme Court into an overtly political branch and irrevocably harm the Judiciary. 

Court-packing was unpopular in the past, and neither is it favored now. Mainstream Democrats argue that the court-packing rhetoric will deter moderate and independent voters from voting for Biden in November. Republican donor Dan Eberhart claims, "Ideas like that are toxic to the very persuadable centrist voters both sides need."

However, while endorsing court-packing could lose the moderates, denouncing the idea could draw backlash from their progressive base. Even if remaining ambiguous isn't a threat to the Biden campaign, it could hurt the chances of a Democrat Senate majority, as voters might see Democrat Senators manifesting radical ideas.

In the end, court-packing is a dangerous strategy, and would irreparably damage our government if it becomes reality. 

Michelle Liou

Posted on October 11, 2020 23:29

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