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EDITORIAL: Kamala Harris' court-packing idea isn't the first one

Court packing has never been a good idea May 18, 2019 at 2:08 a.m.

A select few Democrats sure seem eager to change things in American government that aren't yielding (them) expected results. Electoral College? Undemocratic. Supreme Court? Let's tweak that sucker to our advantage. How can a democracy really be effective if the wrong side wins?

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) is only the latest newsmaker. As a former prosecutor, she has years of legal experience. But that hasn't stopped her from suggesting that maybe the nation's Supreme Court could use some tweaks, especially with that pesky Brett Kavanaugh on board.

Sen. Harris has learned a thing or two from her colleague, Elizabeth Warren. That is, when she's asked a question, and the question requires a stand of some sort, she says she's "open" to the idea, almost any idea, and would like to "have a conversation" about it.

Today, Kamala Harris is "open" to putting more justices on the United States Supreme Court. And what happens if Donald Trump wins re-election, as he's favored to do, and appoints, say, two more justices to the court? Will the Democratic candidates in 2024 be "open" to expanding the court further?

This nation's top federal court has had nine members since the Judiciary Act of 1869. And nine members have served this nation pretty well over the last 150 years. There's no fundamental reason to change it now, except that the left isn't happy with recent appointees. Oh, this has happened before. A president nicknamed FDR tried to pack the court in the 1930s. (Gosh, folks, are we closing in on 100 years since?) He wasn't happy with the court's ruling on his New Deal legislation. President Roosevelt's court-packing effort was so blatant that his own vice president opposed it! In 1937 no less, when FDR was Dr. Fix the Economy and at the height of his popularity.

Back to today: Kamala Harris is also "open" to the possibility of setting term limits for top justices and limiting the number of nominees a president can nominate to the high court. Justices have lifetime appointments in part so they can sit on the bench through multiple presidencies to avoid becoming, or appearing, partisan. It's the same reason FBI directors are allowed to typically serve 10 years, so they can serve multiple presidents and avoid partisan battles.

As for limiting how many justices a president can appoint, this seems dangerous. What if there's a calamity? The Senate already has to confirm the justices. So if the president is making poor decisions in who he or she appoints and how often, the Senate serves as a check on that power. Or should.

It's hard to see any benefit to these proposals. Except to give the senator from California reason to make the news, and move her from 5 percent in the polls to perhaps 6 or 7. For only that, packing the United States Supreme Court seems too big a change.

Editorial on 05/18/2019

Print Headline: All the wrong moves

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