In 2004, Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez added twelve new seats to his country’s Supreme Court. He did this in order to ensure that the Venezuelan judiciary would not stand in the way of his attempts to consolidate power and confiscate thousands of private businesses. The expanded Venezuelan court then stood by as Chavez and his successor imposed socialism and deprived citizens of basic rights.
Similarly, some American politicians want to “expand” or “restructure” the U.S. Supreme Court in order to control the outcome of Court rulings.
Changing the structure of the Court to achieve certain results is known as Court-packing, and it is a brazen attack on the rule of law.
Tampering with the Court will effectively eliminate the power of judicial review, which provides a critical check on the abuse of power by the legislature or the executive.
Court-packing will destroy the independence of the federal judiciary and turn it into a subordinate instrument of the political branches of government.
Threats to pack the Court are a direct assault on our system of checks and balances and pose grave danger to the rights of all Americans.
This Legal Policy Focus reviews the history of efforts to pack the United States Supreme Court and explains why efforts to increase the number of justices on the Court undermine the separation of powers, the independence of the judiciary, and, ultimately, the rule of law.