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September 30, 2021
We Should Expand the Supreme Court

Right now, nine justices hold tremendous power in American law. It's been that way since Ulysses S. Grant first inhabited the White House. The Constitution is silent on just how many justices should sit on the nation's top bench, and in 1937 President Roosevelt tried to add a slew of new appointments that would be sympathetic to his New Deal programs. Congress didn't bite. Now, advocates on the left are eyeing the bench once again. They see a Supreme Court out of touch with the American electorate, obstructed by partisan interests, and rendered illegitimate by years of controversial appointments. But those opposed are sounding the alarms. A move to dramatically change one of the three core pillars of American government would ultimately undermine the court’s legitimacy. It’s not perfect, they argue. But the court has consistently shown its independence and should not be compromised as a result of partisan ambitions. So, in light of this emerging divide, Intelligence Squared U.S. in partnership with The Newt and Jo Minow Debate Series at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law asks this question: Is it okay to expand the court?

 
Post-Debate
Winner

Against the Motion
56 %
37 %
For the Motion
7 %
Undecided
Pre-Debate
Against the Motion
42 %
37 %
For the Motion
21 %
Undecided
Breakdown
Against the Motion
37% - Remained For the Against Side
8% - Swung From the For Side
11% - Swung From Undecided
For the Motion
3% - Swung From the Against Side
28% - Remained For the For Side
6% - Swung From Undecided
Undecided
1% - Swung From the Against Side
1% - Swung From the For Side
4% - Remained Undecided
Post-Debate
Winner

Against the Motion
59 %
37 %
For the Motion
4 %
Undecided
Pre-Debate
Against the Motion
45 %
35 %
For the Motion
20 %
Undecided
Breakdown
Against the Motion
40% - Remained For the Against Side
7% - Swung From the For Side
12% - Swung From Undecided
For the Motion
4% - Swung From the Against Side
26% - Remained For the For Side
7% - Swung From Undecided
Undecided
1% - Swung From the Against Side
2% - Swung From the For Side
1% - Remained Undecided
About The Debaters
For The Motion
An image of Dahlia Lithwick
Dahlia Lithwick − Legal Commentator & Host, Slate's Amicus Podcast
Dahlia Lithwick is one of the nation’s most prominent progressive legal commentators and Supreme Court analysts.... read bio
An image of Tamara Brummer
Tamara Brummer − Political Organizer & Strategist
Tamara Brummer serves as Senior Advisor and Director of National Outreach and Engagement for Demand Justice, one of... read bio
Against The Motion
An image of Akhil Reed Amar
Akhil Reed Amar − Professor of Law, Yale University
Akhil Reed Amar is Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale University, where he teaches... read bio
An image of Carter Phillips
Carter Phillips − Supreme Court & Appellate Litigator
Carter Phillips is one of the most experienced and celebrated Supreme Court and appellate lawyers in the country. He... read bio
Main Points
For The Motion
  • The addition of seats to the Supreme Court would allow the sitting president the power to nominated judges they feel would help balance a court across the ideological spectrum. Currently, the court has a 6-3 majority of justices appointed by conservatives.
  • The Supreme Court has been primarily made up of white men throughout history. Expanding the number of justies would allow for more diversity amongst the justices. Additionally, it would be able to take on more, more important, and more diverse cases.
  • It is legal to change the number of justicecs on the Supreme Court as Congress sees fit. It has always been a political battleground, and now liberals need to push for more seats thta will protect progressive policy advancements such as abortion access, voting rights, immigration reform, and LGBT equality.
Against The Motion
  • The addition of seats to the Supreme Court would initiate a 'tit-fot-tat' political fight in which each party in power continues adding justices to the court to ensure their policies are backed. This would destabilize and delegitimize the Supreme Court in the public's eye.
  • Despite concerns from the political left, the current court's voting record has not been entirely in line with the coservative party agenda. Non-partisanship still exists on the Supreme Court.
  • Just because changing the number of justices is legal and has been done in the past does not mean it should. All previous examples of court expansion or trimming have been borne out of political greed and resulted in a turbulent judiciary.