For the Supreme Court, 8 Justices Would be Better than 9
(This piece by Anthony Marcum and James Wallner originally appeared in Politico.)
Republican efforts to confirm a third Supreme Court justice in President Trump’s first term have reignited the debate over whether it’s time to reform the nation’s highest court. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing has opened a gusher of proposals, ranging from court-packing to term limits.
Reformers from both ends of the political spectrum may disagree on exactly what’s wrong with the Supreme Court, but they often agree on this: that the court is tasked with resolving too many of our political disputes and that both Congress and the White House have become over-reliant on it. Yet, since both parties also disagree with how to reform it, the court has been pulled into our politics and campaigns more and more every cycle.
So here’s a counterintuitive idea: Let’s keep the court to an even number of justices—say, eight.
Common sense might suggest that an odd number is better because it’s harder for the court to tie. But we think an even number—one chief justice, and seven associate justices—would actually be better for a bunch of reasons: It would curb its political interventions, make it more likely to rule on narrower grounds and encourage more compromise. Last, but not least, it would also be the easiest reform idea to implement while causing the least amount of harm to the third branch.
And now, with a rash of Covid-19 diagnoses disrupting plans to swiftly confirm Amy Coney Barrett to Ginsburg’s seat, there’s an opportunity for Republicans to stop the rush and ask: Could eight justices be enough?