No to Court Packing but Yes to Term Limits?

The left and right might not agree on much today, but one area of agreement is that many of our national institutions need reform. Congress and the presidency need to be steered back toward being responsible policymakers as the Founders intended. The national media have lost credibility among Americans and could benefit from self-reflection and reconnection with their audiences. The federal bureaucracy has metastasized to a degree that the Supreme Court is now considering how to rein it in

The Supreme Court has not escaped calls for reforms. Politicians and pundits frustrated with the court and with the nomination process have proposed reforms such as increasing the size of the court (to “pack” it) and imposing  term limits on justices. 

While there have been some nationwide polls on these questions, what do those who would litigate cases at a “reformed” court think?

We surveyed members of the Supreme Court bar to determine their views on such reforms. Between November 1, 2019, and November 17, 2019, we sent emails to 289 attorneys who had presented at least one oral argument at the Supreme Court over the past 10 years. We asked them to answer eight questions about the court and proposed reforms. We received full survey responses from 77 of the 289 respondents, which amounts to a 27 percent response rate, well within accepted values for survey research. Responses came from attorneys in private practice, professors in law schools, and federal public defenders. (We were unable to secure answers from current attorneys in the solicitor general’s office.) Taken together, these responses reveal an interesting view from the Supreme Court bar.

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Comments (3)
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  • Nothing can be done to diffuse the partisan tensions over the nomination process, as the courts (federal) have grown in importance over the last 40-50 years. In fact, federal court judgements have as much impact as congressional legislation. I would also oppose an increase in the number of judges (different than court packing).
    I do, on occasion, read Supreme Court decisions. I am fascinated by how different judges can arrive at such radically different views using essentially the same basis for decision making. So what I am always trying to find out is which judges craft opinions, majority or dissents, that have the greatest weight in the lower courts in later cases. Justice Scalia seemed to be head and shoulders above the others, but I have no legal expertise supporting that view.

  • I’d suggest age limits should be considered. Cognitive decline with age is a reality for most/all. (I know it’s real for me! 😊)