Judges: The GOP plan to remake the courts
Republicans hope to pull off a “breathtaking” court-packing scheme, said Ronald Klain in The Washington Post. Under a plan being floated by Steven G. Calabresi, the co-founder of the powerful Federalist Society, the GOP would use its control of Congress to increase the number of judges on the lower federal courts by 33 to 50 percent—in a single year. That would enable President Trump to name as many as 650 new judges to lifetime appointments, twice as many as President Obama did in eight years. Trump already is remaking the judiciary by filling the 103 judicial vacancies that GOP obstruction kept open during the Obama years. But the flood of far-right extremists Trump is already appointing is apparently “not enough for conservatives.” How ironic, said Linda Greenhouse in The New York Times. The conservative movement “has spent the past generation railing against judicial activism,” but now openly advocates weaponizing the judicial system for political ends.
Our proposal is not “a court-packing plan,” said Steven G. Calabresi and Shams Hirji in National Review.com. As a practical matter, “the judiciary desperately needs more federal judges.” Caselo ads have grown by a third in the district courts and by nearly half in the circuit courts since the last new judgeships were created in 1990. And let’s not forget that Democrats approved a similar expansion to the courts in 1978 under President Carter. They also filibustered many of President George W. Bush’s judicial nominations, and after President Obama was elected, they abolished the filibuster for lower-court judges. As a result, a majority of the judges on federal courts were appointed by Democrats, despite the fact that Republicans won eight of the past 13 presidential elections. If anything, this is a court “unpacking plan.”
My fellow conservatives should think twice before embracing this scheme, said Josh Blackman, also in NationalReview.com. Carter’s court expansion passed by overwhelming bipartisan majorities, but Calabresi is proposing that Republicans ram through this expansion without any Democratic votes, using the reconciliation process. When Democrats get back in power, they will use that precedent as an excuse to repack the courts with left-wing judges in “a downward spiral” of partisanship. Democrats and Republicans joined forces to reject President Franklin Roosevelt’s infamous plan to pack the Supreme Court in the 1930s. This proposal “should meet the same fate.” ■