Biden’s commission to study SCOTUS reform releases final report

The commission created by President Joe Biden to study potential reforms to the U.S. Supreme Court has released its final report — but it’s what the panel didn’t say that’s making waves in Washington.

According to The Hill, the commission, made up of some three dozen scholars and legal analysts, declined to issue recommendations on proposals including one to expand the number of justices on the high court bench.

Instead, the panel struck what The Hill described as “a neutral tone” as it described “profound” disagreements among Americans on the potential reforms.

Questions of legitimacy

One of the proposals that has received rare bipartisan support, the report said, is imposing term limits on justices of the high court. Still, the Associated Press reports that the commission was hesitant to endorse any major change prompted by partisan motivations.

“Indeed, in recent years, we have seen democratic governments ‘regress’ or ‘backslide’ with respect to judicial independence,” the panel’s report reads, according to the AP. “This has come about through electoral majorities using their power to restructure previously independent institutions, including courts, to favor the political agendas of those governments.”

According to The Washington Post, the panel also noted that reforms made in the legislative branch may face challenges in the courts, which would present a unique and potentially complicated opportunity for the SCOTUS to rule on matters pertaining to itself.

They suggested a constitutional amendment would be the way to go, if reforms are indeed taken up by Congress.

“No matter which way the Court came out on the question, these Commissioners worry that the Court’s legitimacy, or perceptions of its legitimacy, would be undermined,” the commission said in its report.

A look ahead

According to the Post, it remains unclear what the White House plans to do with the commission’s report. Biden Press Secretary Jen Psaki has said the president hasn’t set any deadlines for taking action.

“It’s not recommendations that he either accepts or denies,” Psaki said, noting that the report merely explains the arguments for and against each proposal, rather than advocating for any particular motion, according to the Post.

“He asked this diverse group of experts from a range — from across the political spectrum, from across the viewpoint spectrum — to look at and assess a range of issues that have long been discussed and debated by court experts,” she explained, as the AP reported.

Psaki said Biden will review the report, but conceded, “I don’t think we’re going to set a timeline for what that looks like and what it will mean after that.”

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