The White House announced that President Biden will sign an executive order Friday that will establish an official commission on the Supreme Court to study possible reforms, keeping a promise he made last year on the campaign trail. At the time, Biden was facing pressure from some fellow Democrats to embrace significant changes to the Court — such as adding more justices or implementing term limits — to counter the conservative tilt on the bench after President Trump added three members.
The Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court of the United States is composed of 36 legal professionals whose work focuses on constitutional law, civil rights, and voting rights. Its co-chairs are Bob Bauer, a professor of practice and distinguished scholar of residence at New York University Law School and former White House counsel under President Obama, and Cristina Rodríguez, a law professor at Yale School of Law and a former deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel at the U.S. Department of Justice. Other members include Sherrilyn Ifill, the president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and Laurence Tribe, a professor of constitutional law emeritus at Harvard University.
The commission will consider several topics, including “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.” It will hold public meetings to hear from various experts and organizations on the issues, and is required to finish its report 180 days after its first meeting.
In October 2020, then-candidate Joe Biden spoke to 60 Minutes about his intent to create a bipartisan commission of constitutional scholars to “come back to me with recommendations as to how to reform the court system.”
At the time, Biden pushed back on the idea that the commission would largely focus on court-packing, saying, “There’s a number of alternatives that go well beyond packing.”
“The last thing we need to do is turn the Supreme Court into just a political football. Whoever has the most votes gets whatever they want,” Biden said.
He added, “Presidents come and go. Supreme Court justices stay for generations.”