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Biden Sets Up Commission To Study Supreme Court Reform

As a presidential candidate, Joe Biden said he opposed expanding the Supreme Court.
Andrew Harnik
As a presidential candidate, Joe Biden said he opposed expanding the Supreme Court.

President Biden plans to sign an executive order Friday setting up a bipartisan commission that will study U.S. Supreme Court reform, the White House announced.

"The Commission's purpose is to provide an analysis of the principal arguments in the contemporary public debate for and against Supreme Court reform, including an appraisal of the merits and legality of particular reform proposals," the White House said in a statement. "The topics it will examine include the genesis of the reform debate; the Court's role in the Constitutional system; the length of service and turnover of justices on the Court; the membership and size of the Court; and the Court's case selection, rules, and practices."

The commission will be co-chaired by former White House counsel Bob Bauer and former Deputy Assistant Attorney General Cristina Rodriguez. Its other members include legal and other scholars, as well as former federal judges and practitioners who have appeared before the Court, advocates for the reform of democratic institutions and of the administration of justice, and experts on constitutional law, history and political science.

Friday's announcement comes amid a debate over the composition of the nine-member court that now has a 6-3 majority. Liberal advocates contend that an expanded Supreme Court would give President Biden a real chance to implement a legislative agenda, which will otherwise almost certainly be mired in litigation due to conservative legal challenges.

Biden himself has rejectedthe idea of "packing" the court, a view that found gained attention this week when Justice Stephen Breyer, one of the court's three liberals, warned in a speech against an expansion of the Supreme Court.

In a speech at Harvard Law School, Breyer said the court's authority depends on "a trust that the court is guided by legal principle, not politics."

"Structural alteration motivated by the perception of political influence can only feed that latter perception, further eroding that trust," Breyer said.

The White House statement said the bipartisan commission will "hold public meetings to hear the views of other experts, and groups and interested individuals with varied perspectives on the issues it will be examining."

The executive order directs the commission to complete its report within 180 days of its first public meeting.

Full list of members here.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Krishnadev Calamur is NPR's deputy Washington editor. In this role, he helps oversee planning of the Washington desk's news coverage. He also edits NPR's Supreme Court coverage. Previously, Calamur was an editor and staff writer at The Atlantic. This is his second stint at NPR, having previously worked on NPR's website from 2008-15. Calamur received an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri.
Nina Totenberg is NPR's award-winning legal affairs correspondent. Her reports air regularly on NPR's critically acclaimed newsmagazines All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Weekend Edition.