Should the number of SCOTUS justices be increased

College Democrat view

We are living in unforeseen times. Americans today are more divided along ideological lines than they have ever been in years past. While it is easy to blame the Trump administration for its gross incompetence and its assault on the rights of historically marginalized groups, much of these fights happen in the Supreme Court. Issues such as abortion, gun control, LGBTQ+ rights and more have been and in some cases are still being fought before the Court.

Pete Buttigieg, one of many Democratic candidates vying for the presidency, has made increasing the number of Supreme Court justices one of his signature campaign pledges. Buttigieg has called for expanding the number of justices on the Court to 15. Currently, nine justices sit on the bench.

According to a March 2019 article in The Hill, one motivation behind increasing the number of justices is to bridge the partisan divide between Democrats and Republicans. On his website, Buttigieg has referred to this proposal as a way to “depoliticize” the Court. The current ideological makeup of the Court is in favor of the GOP. Unless justices are impeached or choose to resign, they serve life terms. 

The decisions made by the Court will impact generations of Americans to come. The conservative controlled Court has upheld restrictions on banning immigrants from coming to the country based upon their religion (which is arguably unconstitutional) and rolled back protections on LGBTQ+ individuals, among other decisions.

The Supreme Court is one of the oldest existing branches of the U.S. federal government, dating its establishment back to the Judiciary Act of 1789. While the Act called for six justices in total, this number was not fixed. As such, the Constitution granted Congress the power to determine the number of justices who could sit on the Court at any given point in time.

Since then, Congress has both increased and decreased the number of justices who sit on the bench. The Court, like many other governmental institutions, is polarized along ideological leanings. It is likely that the framers of the Constitution never envisioned the Court would be as sharply polarized as it is today. 

While it is likely that increasing the number of justices to “depoliticize” the Court would not satisfy its intended goal, increasing the number of justices who sit on the bench to ensure ideological parity is not a new or radical idea. It would largely serve the interests of all Americans.