Government watchdog recommends reform plan for selecting Supreme Court justices

The Task Force on Federal Judicial Selection convened by The Constitution Project at POGO released a report assessing the process for selecting Supreme Court justices and recommending reforms to reduce dysfunction.

Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that investigates and exposes waste, corruption, abuse of power, and when the government fails to serve the public or silences those who report wrongdoing.

The politicization of the Supreme Court nomination process has led to calls for court packing. Yet such a move would prove to be short sighted, and it could thrust the Supreme Court deeper into partisan politics.

United States Supreme Court Building

The members of the bipartisan task force believe that instead, policymakers should enact a comprehensive reform plan that would ensure that no party can capture the court—and that would reduce the incentives for doing so.

It recommends reforms that would lower the stakes for filling openings on the Supreme Court, including changes to the process by which justices are selected, the structure for decision-making within the court, and the length of justices’ tenure on the court.

The task force also recommends reforms that would enhance the legitimacy of the court, such as establishing a code of ethics, increasing transparency around case selection and recusals, and ensuring public access to the court’s proceedings.

While individual reforms could provide some benefit on their own, the report emphasizes that enacting several of these proposals together would be the most effective way to reduce the heat on the judicial confirmation process.

The task force includes two former chief justices of state supreme courts, Wallace Jefferson (Texas) and Ruth McGregor (Arizona); Timothy K. Lewis, a former judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit; and Judith Resnik, a legal scholar at Yale Law School.

“Given the concern over politicization of the Supreme Court, our group has set out a roadmap for meaningful reform. Our task force sought to draw on lessons from state courts, other federal courts, and even judicial panels abroad to demonstrate the many better approaches that are available for Supreme Court reform,” said Sarah Turberville, the director of the Constitution Project at POGO.

“The Supreme Court’s structure hasn’t meaningfully changed in over a century. These changes would turn down the heat on Supreme Court confirmation and go a long way to improving an institution long overdue for reform.”

Read the full report.

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