NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate provides the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Friday, June 30th, 2023

Support for increasing the size of the U.S. Supreme Court inches upward in Washington

Sup­port for increas­ing the size of the Unit­ed States Supreme Court from nine to thir­teen mem­bers is slow­ly increas­ing in Wash­ing­ton, the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute’s most recent statewide sur­vey of like­ly vot­ers has found.

52% of 773 like­ly 2024 gen­er­al elec­tion vot­ers sur­veyed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling ear­li­er this month said they sup­port­ed increas­ing the size of the Court to make it a more diverse and rep­re­sen­ta­tive body, while 40% were opposed and 8% were not sure. The per­cent­age who were sup­port­ive when we last asked this ques­tion in 2022 was a bare major­i­ty of fifty per­cent, while oppo­si­tion was 41%.

That means there’s been a net change in support/opposition of +3% in just a year and a quar­ter, prob­a­bly fueled by the cur­rent Court’s swift­ly declin­ing legit­i­ma­cy. For instance, the Supreme Court hand­ed down its awful Dobbs deci­sion end­ing Roe v. Wade only a few months after we first asked this Court expan­sion ques­tion, which had huge elec­toral reper­cus­sions in the midterms.

This year, the Roberts Court is also end­ing its term with a big bang, issu­ing a series of bad 6–3 deci­sions against affir­ma­tive action, LGBTQ+ rights, and stu­dent loan for­give­ness, all in the span of twen­ty-four hours, and all against the back­drop of a mas­sive ethics scan­dal exposed by the report­ing of out­lets like ProP­ub­li­ca, which have been pulling back the cur­tain on the cor­rupt behav­ior of Roberts’ right wing col­leagues like Samuel Ali­to and Clarence Thomas.

Roberts is aware that he is pre­sid­ing over an insti­tu­tion that is los­ing respect and cred­i­bil­i­ty, and seems to be fear­ful that the most recent dis­sents authored by the Court’s lib­er­al bloc — which now con­sists of Sonia Sotomay­or, Ele­na Kagan, and Ketan­ji Brown Jack­son — will rever­ber­ate across the country.

“It has become a dis­turb­ing fea­ture of some recent opin­ions to crit­i­cize the deci­sions with which they dis­agree as going beyond the prop­er role of the judi­cia­ry,” Roberts fret­ted. “We do not mis­take this plain­ly heart­felt dis­agree­ment for dis­par­age­ment. It is impor­tant that the pub­lic not be mis­led either. Any such mis­per­cep­tion would be harm­ful to this insti­tu­tion and our country.”

Sad­ly, that ship has already sailed. If Roberts wants to know who to blame for the Court’s grave cri­sis of legit­i­ma­cy, he can sum­mon his right wing col­leagues to his side and look in a mir­ror. This is a Court that does not look like Amer­i­ca and is not rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Amer­i­ca. It’s loaded with a super­ma­jor­i­ty of nar­row­ly-con­firmed jurists who sub­scribe to extreme right wing ideals and are very com­fort­able with try­ing to impose those ideals on every­one else using warped inter­pre­ta­tions of our coun­try’s more than two hun­dred year-old plan of government.

It would take a con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment to impose term lim­its on Supreme Court jus­tices or imple­ment a long list of oth­er pro­posed reforms. How­ev­er, expan­sion of the Court can be done by major­i­ty vote of Con­gress and a pres­i­den­tial sig­na­ture. Real­ly and tru­ly — that’s all it takes! Expand­ing the Unit­ed States Supreme Court would allow for the appoint­ment of sev­er­al new jus­tices who could bring bal­ance and diver­si­ty to the insti­tu­tion. And rein­force­ments could also help with the Court’s work­load. Its size has changed before, and there’s no good rea­son it can’t again. There’s noth­ing par­tic­u­lar­ly spe­cial about the num­ber nine.

Here are the details of where Wash­ing­to­ni­ans now stand on this question:

QUESTION: Arti­cle III of the Unit­ed States Con­sti­tu­tion gives Con­gress the respon­si­bil­i­ty of deter­min­ing the size of the Unit­ed States Supreme Court and the estab­lish­ment of all low­er courts. Do you strong­ly sup­port, some­what sup­port, some­what oppose or strong­ly oppose the pas­sage of leg­is­la­tion to expand the size of the Unit­ed States Supreme Court from nine mem­bers to thir­teen mem­bers to make it a more diverse and rep­re­sen­ta­tive body?

ANSWERS:

  • Sup­port: 52% 
    • Strong­ly sup­port: 38%
    • Some­what sup­port: 14%
  • Oppose: 40%
    • Some­what oppose: 7%
    • Strong­ly oppose: 33%
  • Not sure: 8%

Our sur­vey of 773 like­ly 2024 Wash­ing­ton State vot­ers was in the field from Wednes­day, June 7th through Thurs­day, June 8th, 2023.

The poll uti­lizes a blend­ed method­ol­o­gy, with auto­mat­ed phone calls to land­lines (41%) and online answers from cell phone only respon­dents (59%).

It was con­duct­ed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling (PPP) for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute, and has a mar­gin of error of +/- 3.5% at the 95% con­fi­dence interval.

NPI and PPP have worked togeth­er for a decade and have a track record of excel­lence, as detailed in this 2022 elec­toral polling recap and this 2020 one.

With Repub­li­cans cur­rent­ly in con­trol of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives and two Demo­c­ra­t­ic sen­a­tors opposed to expand­ing the Court or end­ing the fil­i­buster in the Sen­ate, there is no prospect of Court expan­sion pass­ing this Congress.

Pres­i­dent Biden has also not been sup­port­ive, telling MSNBC’s Nicole Wal­lace this week: “I think if we start the process of try­ing to expand the court, we’re going to politi­cize it maybe for­ev­er in a way that is not healthy.”

It’s too late for that, though. This Court is already an unhealthy, “politi­cized” insti­tu­tion. It has become an unac­count­able, par­ti­san body thanks to the tox­ic pres­ence of peo­ple like Clarence Thomas. Biden, inci­den­tal­ly, was Sen­ate Judi­cia­ry Chair when Thomas was con­firmed. Democ­rats could have blocked Thomas from get­ting a floor vote, there­by pre­vent­ing his con­fir­ma­tion, but they didn’t.

Three decades lat­er, here we are.

Pres­i­dent Biden must recon­sid­er his posi­tion for the good of the country.

If Amer­i­cans elect a Demo­c­ra­t­ic tri­fec­ta next year, U.S. Supreme Court expan­sion can and should be some­thing the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty gets done. It is the only rem­e­dy at hand that can tru­ly fix the Court, and it’s grow­ing in popularity.

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One Comment

  1. I remem­ber learn­ing about FDR’s attempt to expand the court and his­to­ry, from what I remem­ber, did not look pos­i­tive­ly on that.

    # by Mike Barer :: July 1st, 2023 at 8:02 AM
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