Reforming the Judiciary: the Good, the Bad and the Even Worse

(This post originally appeared on

The recent death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the forthcoming nomination of her replacement by President Trump has spurred numerous debates and has once again pushed a number of judicial reforms to the forefront.

Below is a collection of articles discussing many of these proposed reforms, and offers an analytical eye on the merits—or pitfalls—of each and how they might impact the legitimacy of the Supreme Court.

Packing the Supreme Court does nothing for democracy

Summary: Expanding the Supreme Court in an effort to “balance it” would turn the body into little more than a partisan balloon—with each party expanding and shrinking it in accordance to the political winds. This mocks the purpose of an independent judiciary.

  • Op-Ed: Packing the court is a plan for little more than a partisan doom loop.
  • Op-Ed: Court-packing proposals undermine judicial integrity.
  • Op-Ed: Confirmation hearings are already highly politicized. Packing the court will make this worse.

The Supreme Court won’t be saved by 18-year term limits

Summary: Term limits would only add gasoline to the political flames surrounding the Supreme Court, turning the judiciary into a highly partisan topic in nearly every race for office. Candidates for office would be forced to pledge to support justices that fit ideological purity tests. Further, they would increase political polarization of the judiciary—as some justices would finish their terms, and others wouldn’t—while also creating unprecedented conflicts of interest that would erode the public’s confidence in the Court.

  • Op-ed: Term limits offer more peril than promise.
  • Policy brief: Arguments against 18-year term limits for the Supreme Court.

Transparency during Supreme Court oral arguments should stay

Summary: The COVID-19 pandemic led to the Supreme Court releasing live audio of its oral arguments and showcased the merits of doing so for the wider public.

  • Op-Ed: Transparency from the Supreme Court—like its live oral audio—demystified the body for Americans.
  • Op-Ed: Live audio of SCOTUS oral arguments worked. They should stay.

It’s time to expand the federal district courts 

Summary: Federal courts are facing a capacity crisis and unlike other judicial reforms, there is bipartisan support for creating more judgeships to address it.

  • Blog: Now’s the time to expand the federal court.
  • Testimony: For three decades, the number of federal judgeships has stagnated.
  • Op-Ed: Federal magistrate judges can improve judicial capacity. Here’s how.

Americans deserve free access to federal court records

Summary: Access to judicial court records come with a hefty and prohibitive price tag. Recent movement in Congress may remove that paywall to justice, which would benefit all Americans.

  • Blog Post: Congress may remove a paywall to justice.
  • Blog post: SCOTUS says states can’t monetize access to certain legal documents.
  • Policy brief: Reforming the public’s access to PACER, the catalogue for federal court documents.
Filed Under:
Topics: Judicial Governance Reform Efforts