President Joe Biden on Friday named a panel to study reforms to the U.S. Supreme Court, such as adding justices or instituting term limits, fulfilling a campaign vow as progressives push to add more liberals to the conservative-leaning court.
Liberal activists have been urging an expansion of the Supreme Court to offset the 6-3 conservative majority created by three appointments by former President Donald Trump. The court's tilt to the right has opened the possibility it could overturn the constitutional right to abortion and roll back gay rights, though so far the justices have moved slowly on those issues.
In a statement, the White House said Biden will sign an executive order to form the Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court. Biden named a bipartisan group of law professors, former judges and others familiar with the legal system and asked them to issue a report within 180 days of first meeting.
The commission will tackle the "merits and legality" of specific high court reform proposals. Along with the contentious idea of expanding the court, reform advocates have recently pushed for term limits for the justices.
"The Commission’s purpose is to provide an analysis of the principal arguments in the contemporary public debate for and against Supreme Court reform," the statement said.
Chairing the panel are Bob Bauer, a New York University law school professor and former White House counsel and Yale Law School Professor Cristina Rodriguez, former deputy assistant attorney general at the Justice Department.
Among the issues the commission will look at are “the court’s role in the Constitutional system,” turnover and length of service, and how the court selects cases.
The Constitution doesn’t say how many justices the court must have, but Congress has left the number at nine since 1869. The idea of adding justices hasn’t been seriously discussed since President Franklin Roosevelt unsuccessfully pitched a court-packing plan to Congress in 1937.
On Tuesday, Justice Stephen Breyer said that packing the court could undermine public trust. Breyer, a Democratic appointee and the oldest justice, has become the center of speculation that he might retire in the coming months and give Biden his first high-court vacancy to fill.
This report contains material from Bloomberg News and Reuters.
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