Article III, Section I of the Constitution states that “The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.” While the Constitution established the Supreme Court, it left it up to Congress to decide how to fill the court. The Judiciary Act of 1789 set the number at one chief justice and five associate justices.
While the intended purpose of the Supreme Court is to determine the constitutionality of laws, there have been several instances where the court was used for partisan political moves. When the Federalists lost power in 1800 the lame-duck Congress made a play to prevent President Thomas Jefferson from being able to make an appointment by reducing the number of justices to five. However, the incoming Congress repealed this to put the number back at six. In 1807, Congress increased it to seven.
Then in 1837, President Andrew Jackson was able to appoint two justices after Congress increased the number of justices to nine. Following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, a Republican majority in Congress voted to reduce the number of justices to prevent Democrat President Andrew Johnson from appointing any new justices. When Ulysses S. Grant won the presidency in 1868, Congress increased it back to nine to allow him two appointments. The number of Supreme Court justices has remained at nine since the Judiciary Act of 1869.
With Donald Trump ready to announce his next appointment on Monday, there have been a multitude of strategies put forth for Democrats to attempt to prevent the confirmation. With so many critical laws that protect the rights of so many people at risk, this is an extremely important effort. When Andrew Johnson was about to be impeached, Congress passed the Judicial Act of 1866, which reduced the number of seats to prevent him from getting any appointments.
If the Republicans currently in Congress cared enough to put country over party, they could prevent Donald Trump from making another appointment, but we all know that will not happen. Instead, if Trump is able to push through his next choice, at least we know that once Democrats take back power, they have the ability to counter Trump’s appointments by adding two new seats which can be filled by justices who will actually make decisions to protect Americans, not hurt them.
I’m a ceramic engineer living in Central New York, avid sports fan but find myself more interested in politics lately.