April 14, 2021

On Thursday, four Democratic lawmakers will stand on the steps of the Supreme Court to introduce legislation expanding the country's highest court from nine to 13 justices.

The bill is being proposed by Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), and Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), The Washington Post reports. The Constitution does not state how many judges should sit on the Supreme Court, and it could be expanded by an act of Congress. There have been nine justices since 1869; now, there are six nominated by a Republican president and three by Democrats.

Those in favor of expanding the Supreme Court say having more justices would help prevent major decisions coming down to one "swing" justice, while also serving as a stronger check on the presidency. Last week, President Biden signed an executive order creating an independent commission to examine the structure of the Supreme Court. Catherine Garcia

February 21, 2021

There aren't any vacancies on the Supreme Court right now, but that hasn't stopped Democrats from sending hints to President Biden about whom he should consider if an opening does pop up soon, which appears to be a possibility given that there's a sense 82-year-old Justice Stephen Breyer may retire in the near future. Biden has pledged to nominate the first Black woman to the high court, and people like Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), who played a significant role in getting Biden to the White House, hope the president sticks to that promise, but they also want him to look beyond only racial diversity in his potential search, The New York Times reports.

"One of the things we have to be very, very careful of as Democrats is being painted with that elitist brush," Clyburn told the Times. "When people talk diversity they are always looking at race and ethnicity — I look beyond that to diversity of experience."

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) offered similar thoughts. "This isn't being critical of the Harvards or the Yales, but I think there's some great attorneys out there that are really, really smart that come from other places on this earth," he said, alluding to the fact that eight of the nine current justices (save for the newest addition Justice Amy Coney Barrett) have Ivy League degrees. "And I think we ought to consider them."

Clyburn has reportedly floated District Court Judge J. Michelle Childs as a future justice. Childs, who became the first Black woman to make partner at one of South Carolina's major law firms, has an academic background that includes an undergraduate scholarship to the University of South Florida and a law degree from the University of South Carolina. Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

November 10, 2020

Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh may be on the side of the Affordable Care Act.

Supreme Court hearings in a third attempt to overturn the health care law began Tuesday as several Republican attorneys general contended the erasure of ObamaCare's individual mandate invalidated the law entirely. But Kavanaugh seemed skeptical, telling pro-ACA lawyer Donald Verrilli he "tend[s] to agree" that the mandate could simply be removed and the law allowed to stand, reports NBC News.

"I tend to agree with you that this is a very straightforward case for severability under our precedents meaning that we would excise the mandate and leave the rest of the act in place," Kavanaugh said. He later said it was "fairly clear" that precedent allowed for simply cutting out the mandate, questioning the Texas lawyer heading the anti-ACA side on how he can argue around that precedent.

Verrilli is representing the House and Democratic-leaning states in the battle to uphold ObamaCare, as he did previously as former President Barack Obama's solicitor general. Paul Clement, who challenged the law in 2012, told NPR that Tuesday's effort to repeal the ACA "doesn't have any teeth." The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has said the ACA will continue to function even though the individual mandate, which charges people who did not have health insurance, was removed.

President Trump has made it clear he wants the Supreme Court to overturn the Affordable Care Act, and has appointed three justices he hopes will help do so. The Supreme Court has previously rejected efforts to repeal the law in 5-4 and 6-3 votes, but that was before the appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the court. Barrett has criticized the decisions in the two previous cases. Kathryn Krawczyk

October 26, 2020

After the Senate voted on Monday night to confirm Amy Coney Barrett as a Supreme Court justice, she spoke at a White House event, saying she was "truly honored and humbled" to be selected for the position.

Before Barrett spoke, Justice Clarence Thomas administered the constitutional oath to her; on Tuesday, Chief Justice John Roberts will administer the judicial oath during a private ceremony. Several Republican senators attended the event, held outside on the White House's South Lawn.

During her remarks, Barrett said it is "the job of a senator to pursue her policy preferences" but "it is the job of a judge to resist her policy preferences," and "the oath that I have solemnly taken tonight means at its core that I will do my job without any fear or favor, and that I will do so independently of both the political branches and of my own preferences. I love the Constitution and the democratic republic that it establishes, and I will devote myself to preserving it." Catherine Garcia

September 25, 2020

Three Democratic lawmakers plan on introducing legislation next week that would limit Supreme Court justice terms to 18 years, Reuters reports.

The Supreme Court Term Limits and Regular Appointments Act would allow a president to nominate two justices per four-year term. After retirement, a justice would become "senior" and rotate to lower courts, Reuters says. The bill, which will be introduced on Tuesday by Reps. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.), and Don Beyer (D-Va.), exempts current justices.

This measure comes in the wake of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death last week, as President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) aim to confirm Trump's third Supreme Court pick ahead of the Nov. 3 election. "It would save the country a lot of agony and help lower the temperature over fights for the court that go to the fault lines of cultural issues and is one of the primary things tearing at our social fabric," Khanna told Reuters.

On average, justices now spend more than 25 years on the court. Conservative and liberal legal scholars support term limits, although some believe they could only be enacted through a constitutional amendment. Read more at Reuters. Catherine Garcia

June 27, 2019

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 on Thursday that the Trump administration cannot add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

The court said the administration's explanation for the addition was insufficient, though Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was within his authority when adding the question. "We are presented, in other words, with an explanation for agency action that is incongruent with what the record reveals about the agency's priorities and decisionmaking process," reads the decision. Opponents of the addition feared a question about citizenship could suppress representation and funding allocation for areas with many undocumented immigrants, who may avoid the census entirely as a result of the question.

The limited ruling was supported by the court's more liberal justices, along with Chief Justice John Roberts. "We cannot ignore the disconnect between the decision made [to include the citizenship question] and the explanation given [of Voting Rights Act enforcement]," the concurring justices wrote. The dissenting justices only dissented "in part" with the ruling.

While the ruling is a win for states that sued to stop the question from being added, the court didn't close the matter entirely — it sent the case back to a lower court for further review, reports HuffPost. The Trump administration could continue to fight the case, and attempt to come back with a stronger explanation that the court might accept, though there may not be time before the census must be finalized and printed for distribution. Additionally, the court left the door open for the question to be added in future years.

Read the full opinion here. Summer Meza

May 24, 2019

The Supreme Court has blocked lower court rulings that required Ohio and Michigan's electoral maps to be immediately redrawn, NBC News reported Friday.

Previous court rulings had determined Ohio's map of congressional districts, and Michigan's map of congressional and state legislative districts, needed to be redrawn ahead of the 2020 election due to unconstitutional gerrymandering, in both cases favoring Republicans. But the Supreme Court on Friday put these orders on hold.

The justices are currently reviewing two gerrymandering cases, one concerning North Carolina and one concerning Maryland, during which they will decide whether the court has a role in such a matter. Verdicts are expected to be reached in these cases by the end of next month. Read more at The Washington Post. Brendan Morrow

July 9, 2018

President Trump said Sunday that he's "very close to making a final decision" on his nominee for the Supreme Court, adding that four people are on his final list: Federal appellate court judges Brett Kavanaugh, Raymond Kethledge, Amy Coney Barrett, and Thomas Hardiman.

Trump is said to be relishing the reality TV-like rollout of his nominee, who will then face Senate confirmation to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy. It's not clear how undecided Trump actually is, though the White House has prepared promotional material on all four prospective nominees. Trump has reportedly spent the weekend discussing his options with top aides and friends, including Fox News host Sean Hannity, over golf at his company's club in New Jersey. Peter Weber

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