In NH, Gov. Howard Dean Calls on Presidential Field to Endorse Supreme Court Reform

September 10, 2019

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At Roundtable Event, Rep. Shea-Porter and UNH Law Professor Goodlander Urge Presidential Candidates to Put Court Front and Center in 2020

MANCHESTER, NH—At a roundtable event in the first-in-the-nation primary state, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, former U.S. Representative Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) and Adjunct Professor at UNH School of Law Maggie Goodlander urged Democrats running for president to present plans to depoliticize the Supreme Court.

The panelists said Senate Republicans’ decision in 2016 to block the confirmation of Merrick Garland, and the partisan push to confirm Brett Kavanaugh in 2018 despite credible accusations of sexual assault, had caused public confidence in the Court to shatter.

The event, sponsored by Demand Justice, took place at the Institute of Politics at St. Anselm’s College before a crowd of students, activists and lawyers.

In his comments, Dean cited a May 2019 poll by Quinnipiac showing that 71 percent of young voters, age 18 to 34, believe that the Supreme Court prioritizes politics above law.

“The public in this country does not believe the court system serves them anymore. Our court system is broken. I would like to see the Democratic people running for president of the United States say what they’re going to do to fix this court system, because we need major reforms. Business as usual is not going to fix it,” Dean said.

Rep. Shea-Porter highlighted the imminent threat to Roe v. Wade posed by the current conservative majority on the Court.

“When you have a Supreme Court Justice, you want them listening. You want to believe that they are open, that they are going to be fair. Americans need to believe that. Every indicator from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell all the way down is that it’s not going to be fair. It’s going to be their agenda, it’s going to be rammed through,” Shea-Porter said.

Goodlander–a former clerk to Garland on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and to Justice Stephen Breyer on the Supreme Court–proposed limiting Supreme Court justices to 18-year terms in order to bring “regularity” to the appointment process.  

“We’ve crossed the Rubicon. There is no turning back. Part of the problem is, there are multiple levels of gaming of the confirmation process,” Goodlander said. Limiting justices to 18-year terms “is a really necessary first step” to depoliticize the Court, Goodlander added.

With the next Democratic presidential debate just two days away, the panelists urged the Democratic candidates to use that forum and upcoming visits to New Hampshire to lay out their plans for endorse reform of the Court.

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