Our courts are in crisis. At the Supreme Court, Republicans have installed a hyper-partisan, illegitimate majority that threatens our democracy and our rights. 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 solutions. Now is the time to act.
Supreme Court reform
Republicans have hijacked the highest court in the land. First, they stole a Supreme Court seat from President Obama. Then, they changed a 70-year old rule to install two of Donald Trump’s far-right justices and confirmed Brett Kavanaugh despite credible allegations that he committed sexual assault and lied under oath.
Now, the politicized Supreme Court is enacting a far-right, partisan agenda that favors corporate interests and Republican Party special interests. Reproductive freedom, civil rights, environmental justice, common sense gun safety laws, and our right to vote are all at risk. And the Court is eroding confidence in our system of government with ethical lapses and lack of transparency.
We need a Supreme Court that can be trusted to be fair, nonpolitical, and ethical. We need to reform the Supreme Court.
The Democratic Party’s official platform recognizes the need for “structural court reforms to increase transparency and accountability.” Progressive leaders like former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Pete Buttigeig have said that Democrats should consider adding seats to the Supreme Court.
Demand Justice supports three key reforms to the Supreme Court:
- Restore balance by adding seats to the Supreme Court. To balance out Trump’s ideologically extreme, illegitimate picks, we should add justices to the Supreme Court to ensure the next Democratic president can nominate justices who will restore balance to the Court. This proposal is immediately actionable. Congress can change the number of justices on the Court at any time, as it has done 7 times throughout American history.
- Depoliticize the Supreme Court by creating term limits for justices. 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 ensure each president has 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.
- Create a binding code of ethics for Supreme Court justices. The Supreme Court is the least accountable part of our government; it does not even have a binding code of ethics. The Court should be forced to adopt and follow a code of ethics, including rules to prevent conflicts of interest, and it should adopt transparency measures, including live-streaming of oral arguments and decisions.
Lower court expansion
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.