Mississippi College Law professor explains ‘packing the courts’ and possible impacts


JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – The confirmation hearing for Amy Coney Barrett has wrapped up in the Senate Judiciary Committee. But now the issue of “packing the court” has come into question.

Aside from the presidential election, the Supreme Court has been on the minds of many voters across Mississippi and the nation. Experts like law professor Matt Steffy of Mississippi College School of Law point to a major division in congress pushing the courts to become more involved in shaping policies.

The idea of changing the number of judges we have on the Supreme Court is nothing new. When the branch was founded in 1789 it began with six. At one point during the civil war went up to 10. The latest attempt came in 1937.

“All the constitution says is we’ll have a Supreme Court,” professor Matthew Steffer said. “It leaves it to Congress to decide what that will be.”

Candidate Joe Biden has been pushed many times in debates and on the campaign trail on if he’d act on adding more judges after President Trump is soon to add his third. In a recent rally, he made clear his position.

“I’m not a fan of packing the courts,” the former VP told reporters. “But I don’t wanna get off on that whole issue. I want to keep focused, the President would love nothing better than to fight about whether or not I would pack the court.”

The push comes from democrats after the path looks clear for Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s third Supreme Court nomination. But would the move politicize the court’s role more?

“The process of nominating judges is already deeply political because we’re giving those responsibilities to the political branch,” Professor Steffy explained. “There’s no law that guides them.”

Since policymakers haven’t found common ground on serious issues plaguing the nation it’s more common for those issues to end up in the hands of the Supreme Court Justices. More judges could mean more attention to what matters.

“The larger the body gets the less likely they are to be able to ignore the law and take action that people think are politically motivated,” Professor Steffy continued. “13 member court is going to be subject to more compromise, more coalition than a smaller court.”

While expressing full support for Amy Coney Barrett and expected to vote yes, Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith opposes adding more seats to the court. Going so far as to co-sponsor a bill in 2019 to amend the constitution capping it at nine judges.

Senator Roger Wicker’s office has also released several articles praising Barrett and supports her vote in the Senate. Also stated in a new Op-Ed from his office “packing the courts” would also politicize the Judicial Branch and he would not vote for more seats. Representative Guest also released a statement praising Barrett’s resume and his full support.

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