In Iowa and New Hampshire, Town Hall Attendees are Pressing Presidential Candidates about Reforming the Supreme Court

June 19, 2019

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After Kavanaugh’s Confirmation, Concern Over Courts is Rising Among Progressives

No Fewer Than 18 Candidates Have Faced Questions So Far; Nearly All Contenders Have Expressed Openness to Either Adding Seats or Term Limits

WASHINGTON, DC—Though conservatives have long prioritized the issue of the federal courts more than progressives, that may be starting to change in 2019, as a review by Demand Justice indicates that at least 18 of the 23 Democratic presidential candidates have already faced questions about the Supreme Court from voters at town hall events in early states like Iowa and New Hampshire.

Demand Justice has tracked the questions at these candidate events and has been sharing the videos of exchanges regarding the Supreme Court online. So far, nearly every candidate – including Cory BookerJulián CastroKirsten GillibrandKamala HarrisAmy KlobucharBernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren – has expressed openness to some kind of structural reform to the Supreme Court, such as either term limits or adding seats. In addition, Beto O’Rourke has outright committed to enacting term limits, while Pete Buttigeig and Andrew Yang have both vowed to add seats.

And just today, in a series of video interviews with 18 of the Democratic candidates, the New York Times featured a question about expanding the size of the Court. About half the candidates responded by saying they were open to the idea.

“The Supreme Court is becoming a more important issue for Democratic voters, as seen in the dramatic uptick in questions being asked at these candidate town halls,” said Demand Justice Executive Director Brian Fallon. “The Roberts Court’s partisan bias is showing, Roe v. Wade is in jeopardy, and progressives have had enough of their elected officials lying down while Republicans pack the courts with conservative judges. We need elected Democrats to think boldly about how to respond to the partisan capture of the courts.”

At the American Constitution Society’s annual National Convention this month, Joan Biskupic, journalist and biographer of Chief Justice John Roberts, observed that the debate around the Supreme Court “seems so much more in play right now” and that candidates are fielding questions about court reform “in a way I would never have imagined before.”

Polling confirms progressives’ views regarding the Supreme Court have sharpened in recent months. In a survey conducted by YouGov and released in April by Demand Justice, only 23% of likely Democratic primary voters approve of the job the Court is doing and 73% say that Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation proves it just another partisan body. More than 70% of these respondents said Democratic senators should vote against all Trump judges and a plurality supported the idea of reforming the Supreme Court by adding seats to it.

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