The recent discussions about court-packing have given momentum to the bipartisan Keep Nine initiative. Democrats, independents, and Republicans alike have come together to oppose this short-sighted move, garnering support from key groups from even the far Left.
I spoke with Paul Summers, former attorney general of Tennessee, who serves as a chairman of the Keep Nine initiative. With experience as an elected district attorney, appellate court judge, senior judge, and later attorney general, he has seen the judicial system from many different angles. "Independent judiciary is the crown jewel of our democratic republic," he said.
Summers noted that the other two branches of government are historically political but that the judicial branch was intentionally nonpolitical and independent. Judges should be interpreting the Constitution, not making laws. The Supreme Court has had nine justices since 1869, with a low of five and a high of 10 before then.
Executive Director Roman Buhler and Summers, with the help of other activists, assembled a team of attorneys general and former attorneys general to bring attention to this issue. Most notably, Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson introduced an amendment in the House, which then garnered Sen. Ted Cruz’s support. Summers's co-chairman on Keep Nine is former Democratic Virginia Attorney General Steve Rosenthal, highlighting bipartisan collaboration.
A new poll by McLaughlin & Associates asked voters, “Would you support a constitutional amendment that says the Supreme Court of the United States is nine justices?" An astounding 64% said yes, with only 17% saying no. Democrats are in favor of “keeping nine” with a 51% “yes,” 27% “no” spread.
Now, the Keep Nine coalition has more than 200 members of Congress endorsing the amendment. Eight hundred state legislators around the country and a growing number of governors, lieutenant governors, and state attorneys general are also on board. Resolutions have been passed in 19 state legislative chambers.
Passing this constitutional amendment would require two-thirds of Congress. “Keep Nine” needs 290 members of the House and 67 members of the Senate. While the reality of getting all Republicans and at least one-third of Democrats seems to be daunting, Keep Nine is optimistic about this being grassroots and nonpolitical in nature.
Buhler said that wanting to get reelected will move even Democratic politicians to support keeping nine. Keep Nine believes that grassroots Democrats around the country are against court-packing and that the Supreme Court ought to be independent and not a puppet of politicians. He cited women's suffrage, prohibition, the repeal of prohibition, presidential term limits, and even 18-year-olds voting as amendments in recent history due to “overwhelming majorities of voters deciding that they wanted the amendment and strong grassroots and community movements that made the issue central.”
“Progressives For Keep Nine” signifies young liberals' support out of fear that if more Republican presidents were to get power, they could pack the Supreme Court. Sen. Bernie Sanders himself has spoken out against court-packing, as did Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Candidate Joe Biden also concurred initially before changing course. And his Secretary of State Antony Blinken gave a speech in Ecuador against court-packing, calling it a threat to democracy.
Buhler summarized it perfectly: “One party adds four judges, three judges, the other party adds three judges, and the courts lose all respect.”
Marc Ang (email@example.com) is a community organizer in Southern California and the founder of Asian Industry B2B. His book Minority Retort will be released in late 2021.