In testimony submitted on July 20, 2021 to the Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court of the United States, People For the American Way President Ben Jealous called for urgently needed reforms to the Court, including term limits, the establishment of new standards of ethics and transparency, and the addition of seats to the Court.
“Our current Supreme Court has been captured by the Far Right and corporate interests, and is dominated by Trump judges as a result of Mitch McConnell’s unethical actions to steal Supreme Court seats. This politicization of the Court is robbing Americans of their rights and undermining our democracy. Unless ethics standards and term limits are established, and the current Court is enlarged, the die has been unjustly cast for a far-right Court that will serve only partisan interests and the wealthy and privileged for decades to come,” said Jealous.
In his written testimony, Jealous examines the history of the Far Right’s efforts to capture the Court. The testimony recommends that the commission evaluate the following solutions:
- Adding seats to the Supreme Court: To strengthen and indeed to save our democracy, adding seats to the Court promptly is crucial.
- Enacting term limits for Supreme Court justices: This reform would more clearly give the American people input into the selection of justices and help reduce the manipulation of vacancies and partisan rancor that we have seen over the last five years.
- Dealing with the “shadow docket”: We believe that Congress has the authority to enact important reforms such as requiring full disclosure of which justices voted in what way in such cases, mandating a written explanation of such votes, and legislating a clearer and more precise standard for what constitutes “irreparable harm” or an “emergency” warranting relief in “shadow docket” cases without full briefing and consideration on the merits.
- Mandating ethical and other transparency standards for the Supreme Court: Supreme Court justices should be subject to the same federal code of judicial ethics that applies to other lifetime federal judges.
- Combatting the problem of sexual harassment throughout the federal judiciary: Although this Commission’s focus is on the Supreme Court, it is important to mention a serious problem that has only recently been widely recognized and affects the entire federal judiciary: the problem of sexual harassment of law clerks and others.