Although legal scholars and politicians on both sides of the aisle have issued warnings about the long-term risks of expanding the number of Supreme Court justices and lower court judges, some activists nevertheless push for such policies in pursuit of short-term partisan victories.
The latest example involves the nation’s largest abortion provider, which is advocating judicial term limits and other reforms in response to last year’s Supreme Court decision overturning the Roe v. Wade decision.
Planned Parenthood released its proposal over the weekend and argued that, among other things, the nation’s highest court should be expanded to more than its current nine-member bench.
🧵 1. Planned Parenthood now wants to pack not only the Supreme Court, but also the lower federal courts.https://t.co/xjkpIrCfL1
— Mike Lee (@BasedMikeLee) May 15, 2023
In a statement, spokesperson Alexis McGill Johnson asserted: “Planned Parenthood refuses to accept that our courts can only exist as they do now, and understands that reforms are integral to building the public’s trust that the courts can and will function to uphold hard-won freedoms and advance justice for future generations.”
Calling the latest demands for “a continuation of our commitment to ensure that everyone, no matter where they live, has the freedom to make their own decisions about their own bodies, lives, and futures,” the statement asserted that the courts should be a “backstop to protecting our rights.”
Although the clear purpose of Planned Parenthood’s latest judicial advocacy involves expanding abortion access, the group couched its argument in populist rhetoric.
“It’s been more than 30 years since Congress last comprehensively expanded the number of lower court seats — the longest period of time between expansions in the history of district courts and courts of appeals,” the statement asserted.
While President Joe Biden flirted with the idea of fundamental court reform early on in his term, the White House subsequently affirmed that he did not support so-called “court packing” as advocated by Planned Parenthood.
“That is something that the president does not agree with,” said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre nearly a year ago. “That is not something that he wants to do.”
Even retired Supreme Court Justice Stephen, who consistently sided with the court’s liberals, spoke out against advocates of expansion.
“If the public sees judges as ‘politicians in robes,’ its confidence in the courts, and in the rule of law itself, can only diminish, diminishing the court’s power, including its power to act as a ‘check’ on the other branches,” he said in 2021.