NEWS

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May 4, 2006

Expanding the Supreme Court (or not)

I'm engaged in a comments debate at Southern Appeal regarding whether or not increasing the size of the Supreme Court from 9 justices to, say, 21 would be beneficial or detrimental to its effectiveness in dictating the law of the land.Those in favor of expansion suggest that with a small number of justices, a single justice often ends up deciding very important cases that split the rest of the court 4-4. Alito is about to rule on a case that was initially heard before he joined the Court, and one that almost certainly will split the veteran justices in half. Other advocates of an expansion cite greater stability in that the makeup of the Court would be harder to alter for any single president.My take on the matter is that expanding the court will almost certainly increase "stability" in the Court, but that it may in fact be too much stability. While it will in general be hard to significantly alter the Court's makeup, if a time did arise when a single president had the opportunity to appoint a good number of justices, the Court could be swayed to such an extent that it might become entrenched in a certain ideological bent and never be able to escape it.The politically confused person that I am (more on that later), I generally believe that gentle oscillations from one side of the legal spectrum to the other are probably a good thing for the Court. Such a phenomena might be impossible for a Court that suddenly finds itself split 14-7 or 15-6.