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Law & the Courts

Bernie Sanders Says He Would ‘Rotate’ Conservative Judges Off the Supreme Court

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks during the second night of the first Democratic presidential candidates debate in Miami, Fla., June 27, 2019. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

During the second Democratic primary debate Thursday night, Senator Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) raised the possibility of rotating justices off of the Supreme Court so that they could be replaced with jurists whose philosophy aligns more closely with his own.

Sanders dismissed the idea that Democrats should erode the Conservative majority on the High Court by adding additional justices, arguing instead that the number of justices should remain the same but the composition of the court should change.

“I do not believe in packing the court,” Sanders said. “We’ve got a terrible 5-4 majority conservative court right now. But I do believe constitutionally we have the power to rotate judges to other courts and that brings in new blood into the Supreme Court and a majority I hope that will understand that a woman has a right to control her own body and that corporations cannot run the United States of America.”

Sanders was referring to the possibility that the High Court’s conservative majority might overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which codified abortion as a right. He also noted Democrats’ opposition to the 2010 Citizen’s United v. FEC decision, which held that corporations are entitled to engage in unabridged political speech.

The Constitution holds that Supreme Court justices may retain their seat on the court “during good behavior,” which has been widely understood as an effective life term.

The former Burlington, Vt. mayor emphasized his support for abortion rights by declaring that he would “never nominate any Supreme Court justice to the Supreme Court unless that justice is 100 percent clear he or she will defend Roe v. Wade.”

Sanders’ comments come after President Trump vowed to appoint a third justice to the court if another vacancy opens before the 2020 election.

“We have the Senate. We have a great Senate,” Trump told the Hill. “We have great people. If we could get him approved, I would definitely do it. … If there were three days left [before the 2020 election], I’d put somebody up hoping that I could get ’em done in three days, OK?”

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