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TJFKAJ's avatar

Why do people want to change the composition of the Supreme Court?

Asked by TJFKAJ (535points) 3 months ago
8 responses
“Great Question” (1points)

It was a campaign issue last time. The claim is that the court is partisan and hopelessly divided. But since 2000 a unanimous decision has been reached about 36 percent of the time. 7-to-2 or 8-to-1 votes happened about 15 percent of the time. People seem to get upset by the 5-to-4 decisions. That happens about 19 percent.
The SC has had several unanimous decisions recently with the Trump appointees. And the latest ACA challenge went down 8–2. What’s the problem?

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kritiper's avatar

They want an equal number of Republican and Democrat appointed members to insure equal consideration of court cases.

JLeslie's avatar

I also have quoted those statistics. It has a lot to do with politics and people don’t know the court votes better than 6 to 3 the majority of the time.

Getting upset about Kavanaugh or Barrett gets average people all worked up, divided, and motivated to vote.

Not letting Obama appoint a justice was an abomination though, I will never forgive the Republicans for that.

Some Democrats want to add more justices now so they can add more liberal judges. I’m against it. Where would it end?

KNOWITALL's avatar

It’s all about stacking the highest court with people who will uphold your values politically. I don’t see that changing anytime soon but it’s especially important to many religious conservatives.

JLeslie's avatar

@KNOWITALL I would say it is especially important to liberals too. Both sides of the big issues feel the Supreme Court is extremely important. Religious conservatives I would guess focus on abortion, maybe even gay marriage, religious freedom, and liberals focus on women’s rights, equal rights, and religious freedom, ironically the last one is the same, but the religious conservatives seem to not understand that liberals care a lot about religious freedom.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@JLeslie Craig vs Masterpiece Bakery (the gay wedding cake case) is one of the examples that comes to mind. Opposite ends of the spectrum.

I didn’t see many liberals backing the bakery. Not that they should have unless the First Amendment was more important than equal rights for LGBTQ’s. So maybe but I’d need facts on cases where liberals supported that freedom of religion.

JLeslie's avatar

@KNOWITALL I saw a lot of liberals outraged by the cake case, and they use it when they feel it is useful, like requiring masks in a business if the owner wants to put forth that rule. They are unrelated though if you get down to the nitty gritty of the cake case. I agreed with the cake case, even though I am cautious about it. The cake was about art for a client, and I think artists should have control over their art. It was not about selling the cake, he sold cakes to gay people all of the time.

SavoirFaire's avatar

Why do people want to change the composition of the Supreme Court? To get their way, of course. The cases that get decided unanimously or by large margins, after all, are rarely the ones that the average voter cares about the most. In fact, most Supreme Court cases are about esoteric points of law or disagreements between district courts over corner cases.

I also think we should explicitly recognize that changing the Court’s membership is just as much a way of changing its composition as changing its size. The fight over Scalia’s and Ginsburg’s replacements was just as much about changing the composition of the court as the fight over adding more justices—and both count as court packing (which is typically defined in legal circles as “any effort to manipulate the Court’s membership for partisan ends”). So for all that Republican politicians claim to be against court packing, they’ve done it twice in the past five years.

That said, I do think that there is a larger problem here—namely, the increasing politicization of the Supreme Court and the effect on its reputation. I would support changes to how Supreme Court justices are appointed and how long they serve, especially if there were good reason to think such changes would at least partially depoliticize the whole process. Not only would it be good for the Court, it would be good for US politics overall.

@JLeslie “I would say it is especially important to liberals too.”

Maybe it is now. But historically, conservatives have been far more motivated than liberals by the politics of the Supreme Court and its membership.

@KNOWITALL “Not that they should have unless the First Amendment was more important than equal rights for LGBTQs.”

According to Craig’s supporters, however, it wasn’t a First Amendment case. Masterpiece Cakeshop was registered as a place of public accommodation, which means it gets special benefits in exchange for adhering to non-discrimination laws. That’s why the bakery was subject to a lawsuit in the first place. If it had registered as a private business—or even just registered a separate business for custom work (which is what many artists do, @JLeslie)—no one could have sued them. The problem, as far as Craig and his lawyers were concerned, was that Masterpiece Cakeshop wanted to be allowed to discriminate while still garnering the benefits granted to business that don’t discriminate.

Note that this theory of the case succeeded in court, which is why Masterpiece Cakeshop decided to appeal to the Supreme Court by suing the Colorado Civil Rights Commission and arguing that the specific law under which the bakery had lost in state court was defective. This strategy was also effective (and rightly so if you look at the statute; it doesn’t adhere to any of the normal standards for public accommodation laws). But this was also a 7–2 decision, so there would have to be a pretty major shift for this one to have gone differently. Then again, I suspect that most people don’t actually understand the specifics of the case (which is completely forgivable since most of the media coverage about it was heavy on the culture war angle and dreadfully lacking in terms of actual legal analysis).

KNOWITALL's avatar

@SavoirFaire Yes, it definately was heavy on the culture war aspect, for sure.

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