Our courts are in crisis. Republicans have stolen multiple Supreme Court seats, undermining the Court’s legitimacy and putting our rights and our democracy at risk. In our district and circuit courts, decades of neglect and a concerted campaign by Trump and McConnell have left our third branch of government unable to uphold the promise of equal justice under the law.
These are big, urgent problems, and they demand big, bold solutions. We must reform the Supreme Court. Now is the time to act.
Demand Justice supports four key reforms to the federal courts:
To undo the damage Republicans did by stealing multiple Supreme Court seats, we should immediately add seats to the Supreme Court and appoint justices who will restore balance. Adding seats is straight-forward and easy. The number of justices is not set in the Constitution, so Congress can change it at any time. It has done so 7 times throughout American history.
Supreme Court confirmations have gotten too political. Instead of having justices serve for life and politically time their retirements, we should create term limits that ensure justices serve a uniform number of years. Term limits would give each president the opportunity to appoint the same number of Supreme Court justices each term, reducing partisan gamesmanship around each individual confirmation and making the Court more democratically representative.
The Supreme Court is the least accountable part of our government; it does not even have a binding code of ethics. We should institute a binding code of ethics, including rules to prevent conflicts of interest and should adopt transparency measures, including live-streaming of oral arguments and decisions.
While the Supreme Court is the most high-profile part of the judicial branch, the vast majority of cases in the United States are heard at the district and circuit court levels. Here too, our courts are in desperate need of reform.
Our circuit and district courts face two crises. While historically we have increased the number of judgeships to keep up with growing population and number of cases, during the 21st century, partisan gridlock has ground that process to a halt. As a result, our courts are overwhelmed with cases, leaving Americans waiting years for access to justice and courts forced to adopt shortcuts that hurt people who are not rich and powerful. Second, our courts face a crisis of diversity. Judges in America do not look like the people they serve, and Donald Trump has made the problem worse by appointing an overwhelmingly white and male group of judges.
To address both crises, a future administration should dramatically expand the number of circuit and district court judgeships and fill them with a group of lawyers who will enhance the courts’ legitimacy by improving their diversity.
The 2020 Democratic Party platform acknowledged the problem and called for the creation of more judgeships.