Biden Unveils Commission To Study SCOTUS Reform

President Joe Biden speaks about lives lost to COVID-19 after death toll passed 500,000, in the Cross Hall of the White House on February 22, 2021. (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
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April 9, 2021 12:08 p.m.

Following up on a promise President Joe Biden made during the 2020 campaign, the White House announced Friday the creation of a presidential commission to analyze the arguments “for and against Supreme Court reform, including an appraisal of the merits and legality of particular reform proposals.”

“The topics it will examine include the genesis of the reform debate; the Court’s role in the Constitutional system; the length of service and turnover of justices on the Court; the membership and size of the Court; and the Court’s case selection, rules, and practices,” the White House announcement said.

Biden promised the creation of a bipartisan commission last fall, while progressive court reform advocates were laying the groundwork for a push to add seats to the Supreme Court if Democrats took full control of Washington.

While Democrats did win the White House and Congress, their margin in the Senate is paper-thin, making an expansion of the Supreme Court highly unlikely.

Still, there are other proposals floating around for overhauling the federal judiciary, including expanding certain appellate courts and implementing new ethics rules for judges.

Biden is naming some three-dozen legal minds to serve on the commission, many of them with expertise in election law and voting rights. The commission will be co-chaired by Bob Bauer, an Obama White House counsel who also led an Obama-era presidential elections commission and then served as a top Biden campaign lawyer. The other co-chair is Cristina M. Rodríguez, a former top official in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.

Also joining the commission are prominent civil rights attorneys, including Sherrilyn Ifill and Michelle Adams, and voting rights experts such as Guy-Uriel E. Charles and Michael Waldman.

The more right-leaning members include Jack Goldsmith, who served in top roles in the George W. Bush Justice Department, and Thomas Griffith, a recently retired judge who was appointed to D.C.’s federal appellate court by George W. Bush.

Biden will sign an executive order formally launching the commission, the White House’s announcement said. The order will instruct the commission to produce a report within six months of its first public meeting.

“To ensure that the Commission’s report is comprehensive and informed by a diverse spectrum of views, it will hold public meetings to hear the views of other experts, and groups and interested individuals with varied perspectives on the issues it will be examining,” the announcement said.

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