October 3 marks a new Supreme Court term. The ultraconservative supermajority is poised to further restrict our constitutional and civil rights, especially those of Black and brown people, taking up cases with profound implications for our democracy, LGBTQIA rights, racial diversity in higher education, and more.
While the Supreme Court has historically served as a regressive institution, the modern Supreme Court has swung even more starkly to the right. Since gaining a 6-3 ultraconservative supermajority, the Court has abandoned its previous incremental approach in favor of more brazenly pursuing a conservative agenda. Indeed, the cases they’ve agreed to hear this term are designed to further concentrate power in the hands of corporations and a few wealthy, white politicians and their benefactors.
This project is not new. Over the past 50 years, far-right ideologues have wielded secret-money organizations to build a conservative judicial pipeline, lobby politicians, and advance a pro-corporate, anti-worker, anti-abortion, and anti-democracy agenda. Billionaire businessman Barre Seid’s recent $1.6 billion wealth transfer to a new organization run by Federalist Society co-chair Leonard Leo grabbed headlines, but this is just the latest in egregious displays of wealth weaponized to mold and shape the Court. Between 2014 through 2017 alone, Leonard Leo raised $250 million from largely unnamed donors with the sole purpose of installing conservative judges to the bench.
As the federal judiciary is nominated for life, Black and brown communities will be at the mercy of the courts for the next generation—unless we fight to unrig it.
All in all, during Trump’s one-term presidency, conservatives confirmed three Supreme Court justices—two of those seats stolen—and over 200 federal judges. These judges and justices have been extremely influential: during the 2021 term alone, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, severely limited states’ ability to issue gun control laws, gutted the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gasses to confront the existential threat of climate change, weakened Miranda rights, and more. While the other two federal branches of government largely swing between Republican and Democratic control, the Supreme Court and federal judiciary have become a perpetual, bludgeoning far-right force. As the federal judiciary is nominated for life, Black and brown communities will be at the mercy of the courts for the next generation—unless we fight to unrig it.
The best way to do that? Passing the Judiciary Act to expand the court by four seats.
Court expansion is both the simplest and most effective way to combat conservative court packing and the far-right takeover of the courts.
Due to the secret-money packing of our judiciary by extremist groups like the Federalist Society, the Supreme Court is completely out of step with the views of the public and insulated from the checks and balances intended to keep the institution accountable to the people. Court expansion is both the simplest and most effective way to combat conservative court packing and the far-right takeover of the courts. Adding justices to the Court requires only simple legislation, no constitutional amendment necessary. In fact, there is precedent for changing the number of justices—it’s been done seven times.
Some people say the Court will moderate to move closer to the views of a majority of Americans. But Leo and his cronies haven’t poured billions into this Court just to have it rule against them. Rather, they’ve intentionally invested in judges they know will side with corporations at the expense of community. Given how thoroughly the Supreme Court has already been packed, the best way to stop its devastating decisions is to add seats, to be filled by justices who will protect and advance a multiracial, inclusive democracy and economy.
While conservatives and big-money groups currently hold the upper hand, progressives can and must reclaim this fight.
As this and future Supreme Court terms unfold, Black and brown communities must brace ourselves for destructive rulings that further diminish our constitutional and civil rights. Every progressive value and win is at the mercy of the current regressive federal judiciary. However, we can take action by rebalancing the Court with justices that reflect the values of democracy and justice. While conservatives and big-money groups currently hold the upper hand, progressives can and must reclaim this fight. We urge Congress to pass the Judiciary Act to safeguard our communities from the destructive agenda of this illegitimate Court.