Why Nine Justices? Court Packing's History and Future | Summary and Q&A

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October 20, 2020
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Bloomberg Law
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Why Nine Justices? Court Packing's History and Future

TL;DR

FDR attempted to expand the size of the Supreme Court to gain more control but faced opposition, leading to the concept of term limits for justices as a potential reform.

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Questions & Answers

Q: Why did FDR propose to expand the size of the Supreme Court?

FDR wanted to counter the conservative majority on the Court that was striking down many of his New Deal policies and gain more control over its rulings.

Q: How did Congress respond to FDR's court packing plan?

Congress overwhelmingly voted down FDR's proposal, as both sitting justices and many senators thought it would undermine the legitimacy of the Court and grant FDR too much power.

Q: Can the size of the Supreme Court be changed by the President?

No, the size of the Court is determined by Congress through legislation. The Constitution only grants the President the power to nominate justices.

Q: What alternatives to court packing have been proposed as potential reforms?

One idea gaining traction is to establish term limits for Supreme Court justices, creating a staggered system where a new justice is confirmed every two years. This would require a constitutional amendment.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • President Roosevelt attempted to increase the size of the Supreme Court to gain favorable rulings on his New Deal policies, but the proposal was defeated in Congress.

  • The Constitution gives Congress the power to determine the size of the Supreme Court, and it has been adjusted throughout history in response to political circumstances.

  • Alternatives to court packing, such as term limits for justices, have been proposed as potential reforms but present challenges and may require constitutional amendments.

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