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April 22, 2021

Westchester Congressman Mondaire Jones has co-sponsored a bill, the Judiciary Act of 202, to expand the United States Supreme Court by adding four seats, creating a 13-justice Supreme Court.

The controversial measure has the support of progressive democrats, who want to restore balance to the nation’s highest court after four years of norm-breaking actions by Republicans under President Donald Trump and former US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“Our democracy is hanging by a thread. And the far-right majority on the U.S. Supreme Court is cutting it,” said Congressman Jones. “From Citizens United to Shelby County to Rucho, the Court has been hostile to democracy itself. The majority’s doctrine is clear: if a law suppresses the right to vote, it is constitutional; if a law protects the right to vote, especially for Black and brown voters, it is unconstitutional. The American people have had enough. To restore power to the people, we must expand the Supreme Court. Today, I am proud to introduce the Judiciary Act of 2021 to do just that.”

One of the reasons for this type of drastic action being taken by democrats was the decision by Senate republcians led by McConnell, not to consider the nomination of Merick Garland by President Obama in 2016. Then, when Donald Trump was President, Senate Republicans again led by McConnell nominated and confirmed Judge Amy Coney Barrett, after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

“Republicans stole the Court’s majority, with Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation completing their crime spree,” said US Senator Ed Markey, another co-sponsor. “Of all the damage Donald Trump did to our Constitution, this stands as one of his greatest travesties. Senate Republicans have politicized the Supreme Court, undermined its legitimacy, and threatened the rights of millions of Americans, especially people of color, women, and our immigrant communities. This legislation will restore the Court’s balance and public standing and begin to repair the damage done to our judiciary and democracy, and we should abolish the filibuster to ensure we can pass it. I thank Chairman Nadler, and Reps. Johnson and Jones for their partnership on this legislation that will ensure the Supreme Court reflects the value of equal justice under law, not politics.”

“Nine justices may have made sense in the nineteenth century when there were only nine circuits, and many of our most important federal laws—covering everything from civil rights, to antitrust, the internet, financial regulation, health care, immigration, and white collar crime—simply did not exist, and did not require adjudication by the Supreme Court,” said Chairman Nadler. “But the logic behind having only nine justices is much weaker today, when there are 13 circuits. Thirteen justices for thirteen circuits is a sensible progression, and I am pleased to join my colleagues in introducing the Judiciary Act of 2021.”

Congressman Jones has been a leader in the fight to expand the Supreme Court since before coming to Congress. In April 2020, he penned an op-ed in Salon calling for the Court to be expanded.

The number of justices that sit on the Supreme Court is set by a simple act of Congress, and it can be changed the same way, without requiring a constitutional amendment. Congress has adjusted the size of the court seven times throughout its history, ranging from six to ten justices and establishing a substantial historical precedent for the legislation.

In 2016, then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Republican Senate refused to consider the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the high court, citing their opposition to consideration of Supreme Court nominations in an election year. Yet, a few years later in 2020, Senate Republicans broke their own rule in order to confirm Justice Amy Coney Barrett while Americans had already begun casting their votes in the presidential election. The Supreme Court is out of step with American public opinion. Despite Republican Presidents losing the popular vote in seven of the last eight Presidential elections, Republicans have appointed 15 of the last 19 justices to the bench. Now Republican appointees represent a 6-3 supermajority,

“Indivisible applauds Representative Jones for introducing this crucial piece of legislation that would rebalance our Supreme Court,” said Meagan Hatcher-Mays, Director of Democracy Policy at Indivisible. “This is not simply a matter of idle disagreements with the conservative majority currently in control of the Court — this is about preserving our democracy and our right to have a say in how we are governed and who governs us. Americans have made it clear: we want a government that works by, of, and for the people. But the Supreme Court has repeatedly denied us that opportunity. Chief Justice John Roberts, and his merry band of unelected, conservative ideologues who sit with him on the bench, have yet to find a racist voter suppression bill or policy that they didn’t like. From gutting the Voting Rights Act in 2013 to forcing Wisconsin voters to go out and vote in person in the middle of a pandemic, this Court cannot be trusted to protect our sacred right to vote.”

“A majority of the justices on the Supreme Court were nominated by presidents who lost the popular vote,” said Nan Aron, President, Alliance for Justice. “Over the past four years, we saw two of those seats stolen to stack the Court with ultraconservative justices with a partisan agenda. We can’t simply sit by and allow them to turn back the clock on equal justice and the rule of law for decades to come. Too often our courts have been rigged to serve the wealthy and powerful at the expense of all others seeking justice. Expanding the number of justices and seizing the opportunity to nominate diverse, forward-thinking jurists will democratize the highest court in the land so that it can properly uphold the rights of all Americans. It’s time to put the justice back in Supreme Court ‘justice.’”

“We applaud Rep. Jones for his vision and initiative in introducing a proposal to rebalance and expand a court that has been politicized, homogenized and captured by special interests,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

“The structure of the Supreme Court has failed to keep pace with developments in the last 150 years. While having a court with nine judges originally was tied to the number of Circuit Courts that existed in 1869, that arrangement is outdated in this modern era of 13 Circuit Courts. Time and time again, the current majority has been openly hostile to Black and brown Americans, and consequently, to the wellbeing of this country. Expanding the Supreme Court to restore its balance and legitimacy is a critical and urgent step toward unrigging the rules and building a more inclusive democracy,” said Brenda Wright, Demos Interim Director of Legal Strategies.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said,“I have no intention to bring it to the floor,” adding “I don’t know that that’s a good idea or a bad idea. I think it’s an idea that should be considered. It’s not out of the question.” Pelosi added that she supports President Joe Biden’s plan to create a commission to study the issue.