First appeared in NewsBreak
By Aron Solomon
In the ever-evolving landscape of American democracy, the United States Supreme Court holds a pivotal role in shaping the nation’s laws and ensuring the principles enshrined in the Constitution are upheld.
Yet, aside from the reality of the current incarnation of the Court being mired in scandal after scandal, the current structure of the Court does not adequately reflect the complex nature of modern legal challenges and the sheer volume of cases it is tasked with adjudicating. In light of the totality of these considerations, it is time to seriously consider expanding the number of Justices who sit on the Supreme Court. As Attorney Tim George observed, this is a move “that proponents advocate would not only enhance the court’s efficiency but also foster a more comprehensive representation of legal perspectives.”
When the U.S. Supreme Court was established, the Founding Fathers envisioned a small group of Justices who would serve as the ultimate interpreters of the Constitution and guardians of justice. However, the legal landscape has evolved dramatically in the nearly two and a half centuries since its inception. The complexities of contemporary legal issues, the Court’s significant caseload, and the need for diverse perspectives to address them have all outgrown the original structure.
Currently, the U.S. Supreme Court consists of nine Justices, an arbitrary number that – those who are advocating for change argue – no longer accurately represents the intricacies of the legal system. This relatively small bench struggles to tackle the ever-increasing volume of cases that reach the Court’s docket. As of 2023, there are now 13 federal circuit courts of appeals, making the case for an expanded Supreme Court even more compelling. With a larger pool of Justices, the Court can effectively distribute cases among them, alleviating the overwhelming burden that often leads to delays in justice.
At least some people don’t want to expand the Court because a larger Supreme Court would allow for greater diversity in legal perspectives. In other words, if either side of the political spectrum tries to pack the Court, it’s much tougher to do so and keep a strong ideological majority with 13 as opposed to 9. One thing that both sides of the political divide should be able to agree upon is that the United States is composed of a rich tapestry of cultures, ideologies, and legal philosophies. Expanding the number of Justices could create space for a broader range of experiences and viewpoints, enriching the quality of the Court’s decisions. This diversity ensures that rulings consider a spectrum of perspectives, thereby enhancing the legitimacy and fairness of the Court’s decisions in a rapidly changing society.
Critics argue that expanding the Court could risk compromising its independence and impartiality, suggesting that a larger bench might succumb to political polarization. However, this concern can be effectively addressed by implementing safeguards that protect the Court’s integrity. For example, Justices could be appointed on a rotating basis, with their terms staggered to ensure a steady infusion of fresh perspectives without jeopardizing the Court’s stability. We could also put mechanisms in place to prevent the undue influence of any one ideological faction, such as requiring a supermajority for certain decisions.
The benefits of a larger Supreme Court extend beyond caseload management and ideological diversity. With more Justices, the Court could take on currently overlooked cases due to time constraints. Again, some people like that getting a case before the Supreme Court is far more difficult than getting into Harvard. But the end result is that many vital legal issues remain unaddressed because the Court must prioritize its limited resources. By expanding its size, the Court could better serve its role as the final arbiter of the Constitution and tackle a broader spectrum of cases that have far-reaching implications for society.
Finally, a larger Court would allow for greater specialization among Justices. In an era when legal matters have become increasingly intricate and multifaceted, having Justices with specialized expertise in various areas of law would enhance the Court’s ability to render well-informed decisions. This specialization could foster more insightful debates among Justices and lead to rulings that are better grounded in legal principles and precedent.
Like it or not (and I am admitted one who, in an ideal world, would have liked the Court to remain at 9), the time has finally come to reevaluate the size and structure of the United States Supreme Court. The current composition, with its relatively small bench of nine Justices, no longer adequately addresses our legal system’s complexities and the many cases it must address. Expanding the Court would alleviate its caseload burden, foster a greater diversity of legal perspectives, and ensure a more comprehensive approach to addressing contemporary legal challenges. Most importantly, an expanded Court is more resilient to real or perceived abuses by any one Justice. Expansion is simply the right move for the Court at this time in its history.
About Aron Solomon
A Pulitzer Prize-nominated writer, Aron Solomon, JD, is the Chief Legal Analyst for Esquire Digital and the Editor-in-Chief for Today’s Esquire. He has taught entrepreneurship at McGill University and the University of Pennsylvania, and was elected to Fastcase 50, recognizing the top 50 legal innovators in the world. Aron has been featured in Forbes, CBS News, CNBC, USA Today, ESPN, TechCrunch, The Hill, BuzzFeed, Fortune, Venture Beat, The Independent, Fortune China, Yahoo!, ABA Journal, Law.com, The Boston Globe, YouTube, NewsBreak, and many other leading publications.