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White House Commission to Study Expanding the Supreme Court

April 9, 2021 by Dan McCue
Outside the U.S. Supreme Court building. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON – President Biden will sign an executive order Friday that creates a bipartisan commission to study expanding the Supreme Court, as he promised throughout the 2020 election, the White House said.

The commission will be chaired by former White House counsel Bob Bauer and Cristina Rodriguez, a Yale law school professor and former deputy assistant attorney general, and include a bipartisan group of legal experts, former officials and reform advocates.

Over the next six months, it will delve into the divisive issue of expanding the court – something progressives have been pushing for after former President Trump appointed three justices to the court.

“The Commission’s purpose 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 White House said in a release. “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.”

The White House said that the commission will hold public meetings to hear arguments from experts and interested parties.

The announcement comes just days after Justice Stephen Breyer said liberal advocates of big changes at the Supreme Court, including expanding the number of justices, should think “long and hard” about what they’re proposing.

Speaking to Harvard Law School students earlier this week, Breyer said politically driven change could diminish the trust Americans place in the court.

“Those whose initial instincts may favor important structural (or other similar institutional) changes, such as forms of ‘court-packing,’ [should] think long and hard before embodying those changes in law,” Breyer, a Harvard Law alumnus said.

During his lengthy remarks, the 82-year-old justice also called for the public to view justices as more than the conservative and liberal labels foisted on them.

He noted, for example, that despite the court’s conservative majority, the court in the past year refrained from getting involved in the 2020 election, delivered a victory to Louisiana abortion clinics and rejected former President Donald Trump’s effort to end legal protections for immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.

And all of this after Trump appointed three justices to the court, giving the court a supposed rightward shift.

The names of the other members named to the commission Friday can be found in the White House release here.

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