May 16, 2023

Bush, Johnson, Markey, Smith, Schiff Announce Legislation to Expand Supreme Court

Washington D.C. (May 16, 2023) — Congresswoman Cori Bush (MO-01), Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Representatives Jerrold Nadler (NY-12), Hank Johnson (GA-04), and Adam Schiff (CA-30) announced the reintroduction of the Judiciary Act of 2023, legislation that would expand the Supreme Court by adding four seats to create a 13-Justice bench. Lawmakers were joined in front of the steps of the Supreme Court by leaders from national advocacy groups, including Planned Parenthood Federation of America Senior Vice President of Policy, Campaigns, and Advocacy Jacqueline Ayers, NARAL Pro-Choice America President Mini Timmaraju, League of Conservation Voters’ Senior Director of Judiciary & Democracy Doug Lindner, and Demand Justice Executive Director Brian Fallon.

Congress can determine the size of the Supreme Court; it has already added and removed seats on the Court seven times throughout its history. At a time when the American people’s confidence in the nation’s highest court has fallen to a record low and Congressional Republicans have already employed their far-right judicial playbook by disregarding norms and precedent in the confirmations process, Congress must take action by once again expanding the Court.

“The Supreme Court is a cesspool of corruption devastating our communities. Because of the decisions made by an unethical and illegitimate majority, my constituents are unable to access abortion care, have weaker labor protections, are more vulnerable to voter suppression, and are subjected to a racist legal system,” said Representative Bush. “As lawmakers, we have a mandate to ensure our rights are not stripped away by bought-and-paid-for judges trying to implement a fascist agenda. I’m proud to lead on the reintroduction of the Judiciary Act, which would expand the Court and help us reclaim our democracy once and for all.”

“Republicans have hijacked the confirmation process and stolen the Supreme Court majority—all to appeal to far-right judicial activists who for years have wanted to wield the gavel to roll back fundamental rights,” said Senator Markey. “Each scandal uncovered, each norm broken, each precedent-shattering ruling delivered is a reminder that we must restore justice and balance to the rogue, radical Supreme Court. It is time we expand the Court.”

“It’s easy to take for granted that the number of justices on the Supreme Court must be nine,” said Representative Johnson. “But it is not written in the Constitution and has changed seven times over the course of our nation’s history. Thirteen justices would mean one justice per circuit court of appeals, consistent with how the number of justices was originally determined, so each justice can oversee one circuit. It’s time that we start thinking about the Supreme Court like we think about the rest of the federal government and consider whether and how its current composition allows it to do what we need it to do — efficiently and effectively administer justice and uphold the rule of law. I am pleased to join my colleagues, Senator Markey, Representative Schiff and Representative Bush in taking an important step in that direction today with the introduction of the Judiciary Act of 2023.”

“Republicans have been working to politicize the U.S. Supreme Court for forty years, with the help of dark money and the Federalist Society. With Donald Trump’s help, they stole two seats, ensuring an ultra-conservative Court that is drastically out of step with the American people,” said Senator Smith. “The Court is facing a legitimacy crisis of its own making after ethics scandals and a flagrant disregard for decades of legal precedent in the Dobbs case. Recent decisions have become dangerously unmoored from any reasonable principles of legal analysis and transparently serve conservative interests. Doing nothing is not an option – we need to abolish to the filibuster and reform and expand the Court. We have to pass The Judiciary Act to restore confidence in the U.S. Supreme Court and ensure it reflects our nation’s principles and core beliefs.”

“For far too long, Republicans have stacked the Supreme Court with ultra conservative justices in order to repeal reproductive freedom, constrain voting rights and weaken clean air rules,” said Representative Schiff. “Our nation's highest court should not be used as a political tool for partisan purposes. That’s why we need to expand the Supreme Court to begin to restore trust, balance, and integrity in our nation's highest court.”

The nation’s highest court today faces a crisis of legitimacy that began when Senate Republicans first abandoned norms and precedent to block the confirmation of then-President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, only to later ram through the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett a mere 10 days before Election Day 2020, and while millions of Americans were already casting ballots. The stolen, far-right Supreme Court majority has since ruled to destroy 50 years of settled precedent by rolling back the fundamental right to abortion care in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization and has become the subject of scandal, including new and resurfaced reports of Justice Clarence Thomas’s failure to disclose gifts provided to him by billionaire Republican donor Harlan Crow and his spouse’s more than $680,000 in unreported income from the conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation. 

Since the Judiciary Act of 2023 was first introduced in 2021, the movement to expand the Court has gained the support of dozens of the nation’s leading civil liberties, education, reproductive health, climate, and labor organizations.

A new coalition called Just Majority, with nearly 40 partner organizations, is supporting expansion to restore a fair and ethical Court. Just Majority’s partners include: All* Above All Action Fund; Alliance for Justice; America's Voice; American Atheists; American Constitution Society; American Humanist Association; Black Voters Matter; Center for Popular Democracy Action; Color of Change; Community Justice Action Fund; Demand Justice; Demos; End Citizens United // Let America Vote Action Fund; Freedom From Religion Foundation; Greenpeace USA; Guns Down America; Indivisible; Justice Democrats; Latino Victory Project; League of Conservation Voters; March for Our Lives Action Fund; MoveOn; NARAL Pro-Choice America; National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum; Newtown Action Alliance; People for the American Way; People's Parity Project; Public Justice; Reproaction; Rise; Stand Up America; Take Back the Court Action Fund; Teachers Unify to End Gun Violence; This Is Our Lane; Ultraviolet Action; Voto Latino; We Testify; and Women's March. Additionally, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Public Citizen and the Sunrise Movement support the Judiciary Act of 2023.

“Our freedom to make decisions about our lives, bodies, and futures is at stake. Everything is on the line: abortion rights, voting rights, LGBTQ+ rights, our democratic institutions, and our bodily autonomy. Our courts should function as the backstop to protecting and advancing our rights, but have, instead, been misused by people pushing deeply unpopular agendas to implement their dangerous endgame. Planned Parenthood Federation of America is proud to endorse this legislation and we are committed to standing shoulder to shoulder with our partners to achieve bold changes to our courts, and fight for real justice for all people,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

“Reproductive freedom is facing a crisis that requires action and creative solutions to protect our fundamental rights. The damage wreaked on our federal judiciary by Republicans won’t be easily undone, and we need all of our options on the table, including Supreme Court expansion. We commend Senator Ed Markey and Representative Hank Johnson for their bold leadership on the Judiciary Act, and we look forward to continue fighting to restore the legitimacy of the Court,” said Mini Timmaraju, President of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

“Expanding the Supreme Court is the most important thing Congress can do to root out the corruption and extremism that has made the judiciary an existential threat to our rights and our democracy. Since the Judiciary Act was first proposed, the Supreme Court has continued to show it is dangerous, corrupt, and in need of reform. That is why the movement to expand the Court has picked up support from leaders in Congress and so many leading advocacy organizations, and it is why we are proud to support it again,” said Brian Fallon, Executive Director of Demand Justice.

“The reintroduction of the Judiciary Act comes at a pivotal moment in the trajectory of our federal judiciary. With its utter disregard for ethics, constitutional precedent, and the health and wellbeing of Americans, the Supreme Court has lost the public's trust. The only way to rebuild faith in the Court is to restore balance, integrity, and independence by adding seats. The members of Congress who are leading this effort have proven that they understand the stakes for our democracy and they have a plan to do something about it. I hope everyone else will catch up quickly — because there’s no time left to wait,” said Sarah Lipton-Lubet, President of Take Back the Court Action Fund.

“Indivisible and its members thank Senator Markey and Representatives Nadler, Johnson, and Schiff for reintroducing the Judiciary Act of 2023. Court expansion is the best chance we have to bring our Supreme Court back from the brink. We’re not calling for expansion because we have passing disagreements with the conservative supermajority. We’re calling for it because our democracy and our fundamental freedoms are at stake. This is a majority that has gutted the Voting Rights Act repeatedly, allowed radical gerrymandering of our congressional maps that undermine the political power of Black and brown folks, and possibly most horrifyingly, has overturned Roe v. Wade and thrown our ability to receive abortion care into utter chaos nationwide. This cannot continue. The only way to save the Supreme Court is to expand it. The American people deserve a Court that’s beholden to the law and the constitution, not billionaire MAGA donors who offer free trips on private jets. Indivisible urges members of the House and Senate to cosponsor this critical piece of legislation as soon as possible,” said Meagan Hatcher-Mays, Director of Democracy Policy at Indivisible.

“To address the injustice of stolen seats and broken trust, we must expand the number of justices on the Supreme Court and confirm fair-minded jurists committed to equal justice for all. The current situation requires congressional intervention. Court expansion is not simply about a rebuff of bad decisions; it is necessary to restore fairness, integrity and respect for the rule of law at the pinnacle of our justice system. The nation's highest court has been captured and rigged by radical extremists that flaunt a commitment to their partisan agenda with extreme rulings departing from long-standing precedent and repeated inaction after several new bombshell allegations of ethics violations,” said Kimberly Humphrey, Legal Director of Alliance for Justice.

“This captured Supreme Court routinely exacerbates environmental injustice, racial injustice, our crisis of democracy, and access to reproductive healthcare, all burdens that fall disproportionately on the same historically excluded communities,” said Doug Lindner, Senior Director of Judiciary & Democracy at League of Conservation Voters. “Until Congress passes the Judiciary Act, these extremist Justices will only continue to put the interests of the fossil fuel industry and their partisan allies above the law while escalating their attacks on our democracy. To restore equal justice under law and pass on a healthy environment and democracy to the next generation, Congress must swiftly expand and rebalance this extremist Court.”