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Group to Study More Justices,Term Limit04/10 12:35

   President Joe Biden has ordered a study on overhauling the Supreme Court, 
creating a bipartisan commission Friday that will spend the next six months 
examining the politically incendiary issues of expanding the court and 
instituting term limits for justices, among other issues.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Joe Biden has ordered a study on overhauling 
the Supreme Court, creating a bipartisan commission Friday that will spend the 
next six months examining the politically incendiary issues of expanding the 
court and instituting term limits for justices, among other issues.

   In launching the review, Biden fulfilled a campaign promise made amid 
pressure from activists and Democrats to realign the Supreme Court after its 
composition tilted sharply to the right during President Donald Trump's term. 
Trump nominated three justices to the high court, including conservative 
Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who was confirmed to replace the late liberal 
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg just days before last year's presidential election. 
That gave conservatives a 6-3 split with liberals on the court.

   During the campaign, Biden repeatedly sidestepped questions on expanding the 
court. A former chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Biden has asserted 
that the system of judicial nominations is "getting out of whack," but has not 
said if he supports adding seats or making other changes to the current system 
of lifetime appointments, such as imposing term limits.

   Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell attacked the move in a statement 
Friday, saying it "is a direct assault on our nation's independent judiciary 
and another sign of the Far Left's influence over the Biden administration."

   He cited statements of more progressive members of the court like Justice 
William Breyer and the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg cautioning against such 
a move.

   "The president spent much of his campaign playing coy on the issue, but has 
now admitted from the safety of a four-year term that he views the judiciary as 
'out of whack,'" McConnell said.

   The 36-member commission, composed largely of academics, was instructed to 
spend 180 days studying proposed changes, holding public meetings and 
completing a report. But it was not charged with making a recommendation under 
the White House order that created it.

   The panel will be led by Bob Bauer, who served as White House counsel for 
former President Barack Obama, and Cristina Rodriguez, a Yale Law School 
professor who served in the Office of Legal Counsel for Obama. Other prominent 
members include Walter Dellinger, a former top Supreme Court lawyer for the 
government during the Clinton administration; Harvard law professor Lawrence 
Tribe, who has supported the idea of expanding the court and Sherrilyn Ifill, 
president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

   The makeup of the Supreme Court, always a hot-button issue, ignited again in 
2016 when Democrats declared that Republicans gained an unfair advantage by 
blocking Obama's nomination of then-Judge Merrick Garland, now Biden's attorney 
general, to fill the seat left empty by the death of conservative Justice 
Antonin Scalia. Then-Senate Majority Leader McConnell refused to even hold 
hearings on filling the vacancy, even though it was more than six months until 
the next presidential election.

   In the wake of McConnell's power play, some progressives have viewed adding 
seats to the court or setting term limits as a way to offset the influence of 
any one president on its makeup. Conservatives, in turn, have denounced such 
ideas as "court-packing" similar to the failed effort by President Franklin D. 
Roosevelt in the 1930s.

   Biden pledged to create the commission during an October television 
interview. Its launch comes amid speculation as to whether he will be able to 
put his own stamp on the court if liberal Justice Stephen Breyer retires. If 
that were to happen, Biden has promised to nominate the first Black woman to 
the court.

   The 82-year-old Breyer is the court's oldest member and the senior member of 
its three-justice liberal wing. A number of progressive groups have urged 
Breyer to retire while Democrats still control the Senate and the confirmation 
process.

   Earlier this week, Breyer himself warned liberal advocates of making big 
changes to the court, including expanding the number of justices. Breyer said 
in a speech Tuesday that advocates should think "long and hard" about what 
they're proposing. Politically driven change could diminish the trust Americans 
place in the court, Breyer said.

   White House press secretary Jen Psaki, asked Friday what the president makes 
of the call for Breyer to step aside, said that Biden "believes that is a 
decision for Justice Breyer to make." And she said the president will wait for 
the commission to finish its work before weighing in about the size of the 
court.

   The Supreme Court has had nine members since just after the Civil War. Any 
effort to alter it would be explosive, particularly at a moment when Congress 
is nearly evenly divided. Changing the number of justices would require 
congressional approval.

   Some on the left slammed the commission's creation. Brian Fallon, executive 
director of Demand Justice, a liberal advocacy group that supports expanding 
the court and term limits for justices, said in a statement that: "A commission 
made up mostly of academics, that includes far-right voices and is not tasked 
with making formal recommendations, is unlikely to meaningfully advance the 
ball on Court reform."

   But others seemed willing to give it a chance. "With five justices appointed 
by presidents who lost the popular vote, it's crucial that we consider every 
option for wresting back political control of the Supreme Court," said Nan 
Aron, president of the Alliance for Justice, a liberal judicial advocacy group. 
"President Biden's commission demonstrates a strong commitment to studying this 
situation and taking action."

   There was concern among some conservatives. Mike Davis of the conservative 
Article III Project called the news of the commission's creation "alarming" in 
a statement, adding that "there is real danger in President Biden giving 
credibility to the idea of court packing; he is playing with fire and 
threatening the constitutional foundation of this country."

 
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