Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said this week that she opposes proposals to expand the Supreme Court beyond its current nine members, a step that some Democratic presidential candidates have pushed as a remedy for what they see as the court’s lurch to the right under President Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Senate.
“Nine seems to be a good number. It’s been that way for a long time,” Ginsburg told NPR’s Nina Totenberg.
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“If anything, [it] would make the court look partisan,” she said of the court-packing plans pushed by some Democrats. “It would be that — one side saying, ‘When we’re in power, we’re going to enlarge the number of judges, so we would have more people who would vote the way we want them to.'”
Ginsburg also said she was not concerned by calls for term limits for justices, citing the political difficulty of amending the Constitution, which enshrines lifetime appointments for federal judges. She said Constitutional protections for the federal judiciary are so strong that “the safeguards for judicial independence in this country, I think, are as great or greater than any place else in the world.”
Several 2020 candidates have expressed interest in ideas to widen the court’s bench, fueled by liberal resentment over Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s refusal to hold confirmation hearings for Judge Merrick Garland, who was nominated to the Supreme in the final year of Barack Obama’s presidency.
McConnell’s GOP-controlled Senate subsequently confirmed Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch in April 2017, and approved Judge Brett Kavanaugh in October 2018 to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy — long considered a crucial swing vote in court decisions.
McConnell has also sought to carve out a legacy under the Trump administration of reshaping the federal judiciary through the rapid appointment of conservative judges.