This quite possibly is the dumbest thing I have read all day (and also why I love to scan newspaper op-eds, there are always some gems of idiocy). Stan Isaacs says President Obama should expand the Supreme Court of the United States of America – also known as “packing the court”, FDR tried it but to no avail.
“The original Judiciary Act of 1789 set the number of justices at six. It shrank to five in 1801. It expanded to seven in 1807. It grew to nine in 1837 and 10 in 1863. It fell back to seven in 1866. It returned to nine in 1869 and has remained at that number since.”
The reasons for the jumps in number, according to Isaacs:
“The Federalists reduced the number to five, hoping to deprive Thomas Jefferson of an appointment. The incoming Democrats repealed that measure, raising the number to seven. It went to nine in 1837 to give Andrew Jackson two more seats. Civil War issues led to more fluctuations before the court settled at nine under President Ulysses Grant.”
From the moment Isaacs put pen to paper, he must have decided he will shill half-truths to push a humorously absurd political agenda with this column. Yes, Federalists in a overtly partisan move attempted to deprive Thomas Jefferson from appointing any justices to the High Court by removing one of the original six seats. But what Isaacs doesn’t mention is Jefferson returned the favor by attempting to purge Federalist judges from the judiciary, not just the Supreme Court but other federal courts as well. The early battles over the judiciary in the United States are far from a solid argument, nor truly strong evidence that President Obama should pack expand the Supreme Court. At this time, the judiciary was ill defined, the government itself particularly volatile and unstable, only persevering because of the strong affinity towards democratic and republican institutions held by the Founding Fathers.
Isaacs next cites the increase in justices on the bench from five to seven as further evidence of partisan control of the courts and as precedent for President Obama to do the same. What is important to understand about the expansion of the Court in 1807 from five to seven is that the country as a whole was also expanding and thus the federal judiciary expanded with it (The Louisiana Purchase in 1803 did DOUBLE the size of the United States so some institutional changes should be expected, come on Stan… wouldn’t you at least higher a researcher if you had your weekly column requests doubled?). The country hasn’t expanded in recent years – let alone doubled in size – nor is our government “new”, “young”, or completely unstable and susceptible to utter partisan whims… so why again should we be packing expanding the Supreme Court?
The expansion of the Court again in 1837 under President Jackson, as Isaacs puts it “…to give Andrew Jackson two more seats,” was another example of centralized exertion of power, albeit in many regards to balance the court regarding the nullification crisis that had emerged only a few years earlier. In effect it was an attempt to create a court that would be a lynch pin in staving off civil war – it worked… for twenty-three years. Finally, in the years of reconstruction, following the Civil War, the Supreme Court was settled on the number nine. This number has remained in place since, for 141 years, though it again jumped around in the unstable period leading up to, during, and directly after the Civil War. So the number of Justices on the Supreme Court jumped between five and ten for a period of 80 years, but has not budged for a period of 141… history, and precedent seem to be on the side of that magic number nine. Further, the trend for changing the number of Justices on the Supreme Court seems to get popular during times of great political instability, swells of violent populism, and times of vicious partisan chicanery. Some will say that such are the times – I say, “Get a life.” We are not on the cusp of violent upheaval, one might say we are on that road, but on the precipice of transcontinental chaos and war… no. Isaacs seems to think that the Court’s Citizens United v. FEC decision is equivalent to the Civil War, or the contentious election of 1800. Mr. Isaacs is wrong, and his outrage at Citizens is in reality a thinly veiled attempt to justify packing the Supreme Court so President Obama can push an unconstitutional agenda, much like previous presidents, without being hampered by a few pesky judges. This happened once before; FDR tried it and was met with bipartisan outrage for even concocting such a plan. Well over one hundred years of precedent show the current make-up of the Supreme Court is just fine.
ON A SIDE NOTE:
This has nothing to do with SCOTUS or the above post in general but equally as interesting:
A few days ago MEP Nigel Farage lambasted the new EU President at the European Parliament. If only we could speak so eloquently in America about our politicians on the Right and the Left.