TOPEKA – (April 22, 2021) – Legislation introduced in Congress to expand the size of the U.S. Supreme Court would undermine the constitutional system of government, the public’s confidence in the courts and the rule of law and should be rejected, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said today.
In a letter to President Biden and congressional leaders joined by 19 other state attorneys general, Schmidt reaffirmed his opposition to increasing the U.S. Supreme Court from its present nine members to 13. In October, Schmidt was an early backer of the “Keep Nine” Amendment, a bipartisan proposal that would amend the U.S. Constitution to fix the number of justices at nine.
The letter notes that throughout U.S. history the prevailing tenet of our nation’s democracy has been that efforts to inject politics into the judicial branch of government would undercut the independence of the judiciary and weaken the rule of law.
Earlier this month, President Biden established a new commission to study potential Supreme Court reforms, but less than a week later – before the Commission even met – members of Congress introduced legislation to increase the number of justices.
“Given the filing of this bill six days after the President announced his Executive Order regarding the Supreme Court, it is clear the Commission on the Supreme Court is nothing but a coordinated attempt to justify a naked political power grab by the leaders of Congress and the President,” the attorneys general wrote.
Schmidt and his colleagues noted that Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Stephen Breyer each condemned schemes concocted over the years that would expand the size of the court. The attorneys general have disagreed with the justices’ opinions but recognize the disagreements as differences in legal philosophy, “not political will, and we have never suggested that Congress should use its political prowess to intimidate them into reaching one outcome or another.”
The framers of the Constitution created an independent judiciary, due to the judicial abuses experienced under King George III and to prevent the new federal government from repeating those abuses. The last court-packing attempt by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt more than 80 years ago failed because of how it threatened our constitutional system.
The Kansas Attorney General’s Office maintains an active practice representing Kansas interests before the U.S. Supreme Court. Schmidt has personally argued and won three cases before the high court.
A copy of the letter can be found at https://bit.ly/2RUBC7J.