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Expand the Supreme Court: Pingree Cosponsors Bill to Restore Judicial Balance

The Judiciary Act would add four associate justices to the Supreme Court, bringing the total number of justices to 13

Today, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) announced her cosponsorship of H.R. 2584, the Judiciary Act of 2021 to expand the United States Supreme Court by adding four seats, creating a 13-justice Supreme Court mirroring the number of US appellate courts. This bill, introduced by Congressman Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), would restore balance to the nation’s highest court after years of norm-breaking actions by Republicans led to its current composition and greatly damaged the Court’s standing in the eyes of the American people. 

“In over a century, we have not had a more partisan Supreme Court than the one we have today. We must expand the court to balance the rightwing court-packing that happened under former President Trump,” said Congresswoman Pingree. “Last month, these justices failed to act and allowed a near-half-century precedent to be discarded without a second thought. Our laws must be interpreted by neutral jurists who are driven by fact and precedent, not partisans bent on attacking our constitutional rights. It’s common sense for the Supreme Court to once again have the same number of justices as we have U.S. appellate courts. To protect our settled constitutional rights and restore balance to the nation’s highest court, Congress must act and pass the Judiciary Act.”

The Constitution established the Supreme Court but left it to Congress to determine how many justices should make up the court. This number is set by a simple act of Congress, and it can be changed the same way, without requiring a constitutional amendment. Congress has adjusted the size of the court seven times throughout its history, most recently with the Judiciary Act of 1869, which set the number of justices at nine, in alignment with the number of circuits in the United States at the time. Since then, the number of circuits has grown to thirteen and the appeals filed before the Supreme Court have dramatically increased in both number and complexity.  

In 2016, then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Republican-controlled Senate refused to consider the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the high court, citing their opposition to consideration of Supreme Court nominations in a presidential election year. Yet, a few years later, in 2020, Senate Republicans broke their own rule in order to confirm Justice Amy Coney Barrett while Americans had already begun casting their votes in the presidential election. Currently, only three members of the Supreme Court were appointed by Democrats, while four were appointed by Republican presidents who did not win the popular vote. Republicans have appointed 15 of the last 19 justices.

The Judicial Act of 2021 has been cosponsored by 36 Democratic Members of Congress, and has been endorsed by over 100 organizations—including Public Citizen, Alliance for Justice, the Center for Popular Democracy, and more. 

A copy of the legislation can be found here.


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