Good government group offers ideas for selecting Supreme Court justices

As fears rise over the possibility of radical extremism after Republicans packed the nation’s top judicial panel—notably with three members appointed by disgraced former President Donald Trump—the Task Force on Federal Judicial Selection convened by The Constitution Project at POGO recently released a report assessing the process for selecting Supreme Court justices and recommending reforms to reduce dysfunction.

The politicization of the Supreme Court nomination process has led to calls for court packing, a move that could prove to be short sighted, and thrust the judiciary deeper into partisan politics despite its intended impartiality.

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.

This would mark a sharp contrast with the system that has evolved though America’s political mechanism. Republican appointees now hold six of the nine Supreme Court seats and those members have a clear political agenda aimed at ending abortion rights and turning back the clock on various social changes that have occurred in the last century.

The Trump Court is currently seeking ways to justify the eradication of liberties recognized in prior cases, including the right to privacy that guarantees a woman’s right to decide whether to terminate an unwanted pregnancy that resulted from the landmark 1973 Roe vs Wade case. That would become the first constitutional right recognized by a Supreme Court verdict to be overturned by a subsequent case.

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,” said Sarah Turberville, the director of the Constitution Project at POGO. “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.”

“The Supreme Court’s structure hasn’t meaningfully changed in over a century,” said Turberville. “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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