Ginsburg Warned Court Packing Was a “Bad Idea” — Here’s Why

Now more than ever we need the Democrats to be the adults in the room.

The Courtroom of the Supreme Court showing Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Bench Chair in black following her death.
The Courtroom of the Supreme Court showing Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Bench Chair in black following her death.
The Courtroom of the Supreme Court showing Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Bench Chair and the Bench in front of her seat draped in black following her death on September 18th, 2020. Credit: Photograph by Fred Schilling, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Why court-packing is such a terrible idea

Aside from the fact that court-packing would basically turn the Court into a rubber stamp for the ruling party, the most obvious reason is that there is no end to it. As Bernie Sanders told The New York Times last year: “Packing the courts is a great idea when you’re in power, not such a great idea when your political opponents are in power.” (More recently he has sidestepped the issue, though. I wonder why.)

How court-packing would likely play out

One foreboding example of how court-packing might play out in reality is the situation in Poland, a country that is now dangerously close to becoming an authoritarian state, even though it is a member of the European Union.

So, how do we make the Court less political?

The easy answer is: take the confirmation process away from politicians. Unfortunately, the reality is more complicated.

Term limits

The idea of term limits for Supreme Court justices has been gaining traction the last couple of years. Specifically staggered, 18-year term limits, with a new justice added every other year (9 justices x 2 years =18).

Do term limits require constitutional amendment?

It’s not entirely clear.

How to move forward

The Conservatives aren’t going to make any changes—that’s why they’re called Conservatives. It’s up to the Progressives to reform the Court.

Author of History That Changed the World (Odyssea Publishing, 2017). Published in the Philadelphia Inquirer, on CNBC, The Hill, Quartz, and other media.

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