The History and Meaning of Court-Packing

The History and Meaning of Court-Packing


When Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died this year, Democrats — foremost among them progressive Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — advocated expanding the size of the Supreme Court. The point was to counterbalance what became a 6-3 conservative majority after President Trump’s appointee, Amy Coney Barrett, was confirmed.

This is an idea called “court-packing.” It’s been floated before, but never really put into practice in its most extreme form. The size of the Supreme Court hasn’t been altered at all since 1869, and before then it was changed only by one or two judges at a time.

Americans are wary of court packing when polled, in part because of its huge and in some cases uncertain potential consequences. It’s a bit like tinkering under the hood of America’s republic: if you’re going to start moving essential parts of our constitutional machinery around, people want assurance that you know what you’re doing. When elected representatives start proposing a full-engine retool, their

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