Law & the Courts

NYC Progressives Call on Schumer to Expand Supreme Court or Be Held ‘Accountable’

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) participates in a news conference at the U.S. Capitol, October 1, 2020. (Erin Scott/Reuters)

A group of progressive New York City elected officials called on Senator Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) to back legislation to expand the Supreme Court, in a joint letter released on Monday.

Democrats have fumed as Senate Republicans succeeded in confirming Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, with Schumer himself refusing to meet Barrett and calling the process “illegitimate.” Barrett’s confirmation, approved in a 52-48 Senate vote along party lines, gives conservatives a 6-3 majority on the bench.

The new letter calling on Schumer to pack the Court comes two years before the longtime New York senator stands for reelection.

The Republican Party…uses aggressive tactics to stack the courts with right-wing ideologues, cultivated in their own parallel legal ecosystem. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party has fought to preserve the myth of our apolitical judiciary,” states the letter, which was organized by State Assembly member elect Zohran Kwame Mamdani of the 36th district. 

“The result has been catastrophic,” Kwame Mamdani added. “A right-wing supermajority now sits on the Supreme Court. The federal judiciary is teeming with hundreds of conservative fanatics appointed by Donald Trump.”

The letter concludes, “We call on Senator Schumer to immediately, publicly support the expansion of the Supreme Court, to commit to bringing such legislation to a vote should Democrats recapture the majority, and to whip support for such legislation within his caucus.”

The letter was endorsed by well-known New York progressives including City Comptroller Scott Stringer, State Senator Julia Salazar, and State Assembly member Linda Rosenthal. 

Also among the signatories are newly-elected politicians, like Kwame Mamdani, who are part of a wave of freshmen progressives entering New York politics either on the state or national level during the past few years. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) and incoming Representative Jamaal Bowman (D., N.Y.), for example, both pulled off upset victories against longtime Democratic congressmen in their respective districts.

Ocasio-Cortez and Bowman were not themselves signatories of Kwame Mamdani’s letter but Ocasio-Cortez did call on Democrats to pack the court in a Monday night tweet.

“Expand the court,” the progressive New York congresswoman wrote on Twitter. “Republicans do this because they don’t believe Dems have the stones to play hardball like they do. And for a long time they’ve been correct. But do not let them bully the public into thinking their bulldozing is normal but a response isn’t. There is a legal process for expansion.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi cited population growth as a justification for the potential court-packing push during a Monday night interview.

Asked on MSNBC whether she is “open to efforts” to add seats to the Supreme Court, known as packing the court, Pelosi left the question open.

“I think that Joe Biden has given us a good path. He’s going to have something that people can understand why this is important,” Pelosi said moments after the Senate voted to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court Monday evening.

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Zachary Evans is a news writer for National Review Online. He is a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces and a trained violist.