Supreme Court Reform
Supreme Court Reform
Our Supreme Court is facing a legitimacy crisis. Put simply, we no longer have a Supreme Court that can be trusted to uphold constitutional rights, democratic principles, and judicial norms in this country. This is the result of the Right packing the Supreme Court and of the Court’s resulting conservative supermajority being driven by a staunchly partisan agenda that is increasingly indifferent to constitutional rights and judicial norms.
The Court is threatening our democratic legitimacy by failing to uphold constitutional guardrails necessary to guarantee democracy. Our democracy, our right to self-government, depends on a meaningful right to vote. Right now, our right to vote is in jeopardy because of this Supreme Court, which has upheld voter suppression laws and OK’d partisan gerrymandering.
This packed Supreme Court is also breaking from its own norms and precedents. For instance, it is increasingly turning to the shadow docket, a process meant for emergency measures, to decide consequential cases that impact the lives of millions of people. This is exemplified by the Court’s use of the shadow docket to strip pregnant people in Texas of access to their constitutional right to abortion care, in disregard to Roe v. Wade.
Combine these trends with the generational impact of life-tenure for justices and the hyper-politicization of the Supreme Court nomination process, and the Supreme Court’s legitimacy is rapidly eroding. The combined impact of this legitimacy crisis is being disproportionately felt by people of color and women, exacerbating existing inequalities within our laws and legal systems. Every indication is that the harm imposed by this Supreme Court on the guardrails of our democracy and on our constitutional rights will only increase in the absence of reform, with particular harm felt by the most marginalized.
Both structural and non-structural Supreme Court reforms are urgently needed to preserve judicial norms, restore the Court’s credibility, and to protect our country’s democratic legitimacy.
The U.S. Supreme Court is facing a legitimacy crisis. Put simply, we no longer have a Supreme Court that can be trusted to uphold constitutional rights, judicial norms, and democratic guardrails in this country. ACS President, Russ Feingold, and Executive Vice President, Zinelle October, join Jeanne Hruska to discuss how the Supreme Court reached this point and the structural and non-structural reforms that are urgently needed to restore the Court’s credibility and to protect our country’s democratic legitimacy.
The Berkeley Forum
ACS President Russ Feingold joined The Berkeley Forum at the University of California, Berkeley to discuss the Court’s legitimacy crisis and some of the specific reforms that are urgently needed, including adding seats to the Supreme Court and ending life tenure in favor of term limits.
What’s Next for Court Reform?
The debate over whether and how to restructure both the Supreme Court and the lower federal courts has intensified in the past year, particularly after Amy Coney Barrett’s Senate confirmation took place just one week before the 2020 presidential election. For some in the progressive community, the Biden administration’s formation of a commission to study the issue is not a sufficiently urgent response. A legislative response is forthcoming in the House of Representatives, where bills to add seats to the Supreme Court and set term limits for the Justices will be introduced, and pressure is ratcheting up from the grassroots, but court reform will still be a difficult issue to advance in the U.S. Senate. How can progressives move this agenda forward in the current political climate?
Russ Feingold, ACS President
Jennifer Bendery, Senior Politics Reporter, HuffPost, Moderator
Hon. Mondaire Jones, 17th Congressional District of New York
Chris Kang, Chief Counsel, Demand Justice
Leah Litman, Assistant Professor of Law, University of Michigan Law School
Nancy Zirkin, Strategic Consultant; Former Executive Vice President of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
- “This is Why ACS is Calling for Urgent and Specific Supreme Court Reforms,” by Russ Feingold, President, American Constitution Society
- “Americans no longer have faith in the US supreme court. That has justices worried,” by Russ Feingold, President, American Constitution Society for The Guardian
- “Trump’s judges will call the shots for years to come. The judicial system is broken,” by Hon. Shira A Scheindlin, United States District Judge (Ret.) for The Guardian
- “Former senator on a mission to change the way Supreme Court justices are selected,” by Russ Feingold, President, American Constitution Society for the San Francisco Chronicle