Law & the Courts

Pelosi Cites Population Growth to Defend Potential Court-Packing Push

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks about the need for additional coronavirus relief during her weekly news conference with Capitol Hill reporters in Washington, D.C., October 22, 2020. (Hannah McKay/Reuters)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday cited population growth while making a hypothetical case for adding justices to the Supreme Court, saying that perhaps the country needs more district courts as well to account for the larger population.

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.

“Not just the Supreme Court but the other courts,” Pelosi continued. “In 1876, there were nine justices on the Court. Our population has grown enormously since then. Should we expand the Court? Well, let’s take a look and see. And that relates to the nine district courts. Maybe we need more district courts as well.”

The Supreme Court was last expanded to nine justices in 1869.

Pelosi added that Supreme Court justices should be required to “disclose their holdings.”

“Why should all the rest of us have to disclose our holdings, and that is appropriate, but not if you’re a justice of the Supreme Court. They’re in this ivory tower,” the speaker said.

The Senate voted 52-to-48 on Monday to confirm Barrett to the Supreme Court after a contentious confirmation battle during which several Senate Democrats called for adding more justices.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called Monday evening for the court to be expanded, calling on Democrats to “play hardball” against Republicans.

“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.”

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has hedged on revealing whether he would support efforts to expand the Court.

“Whatever position I take on that, that’ll become the issue,” Biden responded when asked during the first presidential debate last month whether he would support adding justices.

Earlier this week, Biden said that if he is elected president he plans to establish a bipartisan commission of scholars to study how to “reform the court system, because it’s getting out of whack.”

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