On December 16, 2020, The Federalist Society's Federalism and Separation of Powers Practice Group hosted a debate on Court-packing, Term Limits, and the Debate Over Reforming the Judiciary.
The battles over the nominations of Merrick Garland, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett suggest that the Supreme Court is now part of the same politicized cloud that envelops all of the nation’s public discourse. Politics have always played a role in judicial confirmations, but it’s a modern phenomenon for divergent legal theories to map onto partisan preferences at a time when the parties are ideologically sorted and polarized. Has the culmination of these trends led some people to think of judges and justices in partisan terms, and to question the legitimacy of our judiciary altogether—or at least its mode of selection and appointment? The threat of “court-packing” was a live issue in the 2020 campaign, as a potential Democratic response to alleged Republican violations of the norms surrounding judicial nominations. Is there anything we can do to fix this dynamic, to turn down the political heat on Supreme Court vacancies? Reform proposals abound: term limits, politically rebalancing or changing the size of the Court, setting new rules for the confirmation process, and more. President-elect Joe Biden promised to establish a bipartisan judicial reform commission and our distinguished panel will provide a preview of the sort of discussion such a commission would likely have.
- Prof. Noah Feldman, Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law and Director, Julis-Rabinowitz Program on Jewish and Israeli Law, Harvard Law School
- Prof. James T. Lindgren, Professor of Law, Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law
- Carrie Severino, Chief Counsel and Policy Director, Judicial Crisis Network
- Prof. Rivka Weill, Professor of Law, Harry Radzyner Law School, Interdisciplinary Center
- Moderator: Ilya Shapiro, Director, Robert A. Levy Center for Constitutional Studies, Cato Institute
- Introduction: Nick Marr, Assistant Director, Practice Groups, The Federalist Society
- Feldman, "Don't Pack the Supreme Court, Democrats. You'd Live to Regret It." (Bloomberg)
- Feldman, The Deep Bench Podcast
- Feldman, Scorpions: The Battles and Triumphs of FDR's Great Supreme Court Justices
- Lindgren & Calabresi, "Term Limits for the Supreme Court: Life Tenure Reconsidered" (Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy)
- Lindgren, Slideshow on Term Limits
- Severino, Participant in FedSoc Panel on Judicial Life Tenure
- Weill, "Court-Packing as an Antidote" (Cardozo Law Review, forthcoming)
- Shapiro, Supreme Disorder: Judicial Nominations and the Politics of America's Highest Court
- Shapiro, Statistical and Historical Tables on Judicial Confirmations
- Shapiro, "Term Limits Won't Fix the Court" (The Atlantic)
- Shapiro, "End confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominees" (USA Today)
As always, the Federalist Society takes no position on particular legal or public policy issues; all expressions of opinion are those of the speakers.