Supreme Court

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Calls Court Packing a 'Bad Idea'

The liberal jurist puts judicial integrity before partisan politics.

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Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg recently sat down with Nina Totenberg of National Public Radio for a wide-ranging conversation. One of their most notable exchanges centered on the issue of court packing.

Several presidential candidates have said they want to increase the number of justices on the Supreme Court in order to fill the bench with Democratic appointees. Ginsburg made it clear that she dissents from such proposals. "If anything would make the Court look partisan," Ginsburg said, "it would be that—one side saying, 'When we're in power, we're going to enlarge the number of judges, so we would have more people who would vote the way we want them to.'"

Ginsburg also said that it "was a bad idea when President Franklin Roosevelt tried to pack the court."

Ginsburg's opposition to court packing is no surprise. She is a serious jurist, after all, not a partisan hack. Of course she would look askance at such blatant meddling with the independence of the judiciary.

Ginsburg also knows her history. Roosevelt's court-packing scheme was defeated in 1937 in large part thanks to the principled opposition of members of Roosevelt's own party. In fact, one of Ginsburg's judicial heroes, the progressive legal icon Justice Louis Brandeis (appointed by a Democratic president, Woodrow Wilson), helped to lead that opposition.

Brandeis was mostly in sync with the goals of Roosevelt's New Deal. But the progressive jurist was deeply offended by Roosevelt's desire to interfere with a co-equal branch of government. So, working mostly behind the scenes, Brandeis went on the counterattack. Perhaps his most important move was to put the court-packing plan's chief congressional critic, Sen. Burton K. Wheeler (D–Mont.), in touch with Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, who had drafted a memo, signed by several justices, which made it clear that the Court not only opposed the president's power grab but also rejected Roosevelt's stated justifications as a self-serving sham. Wheeler unveiled that memo in the Senate to great political effect, and Roosevelt's scheme died a well-deserved death shortly after that.

Ginsburg is now following in Brandeis' admirable footsteps. She deserves credit for putting judicial integrity before partisan politics.

Related: "The New Deal Made Them 'Right': Remembering FDR's principled liberal opponents."

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  1. I thought RBG died.

    1. YMCK all the way.

      1. It took me forever to figure out this most excellent joke.

      1. I was gonna say, “she models caskets”?

    2. She’s just sleeping. #DeadParrotSkit

      1. Pining for the fjords?

    3. That is what you get for thinking!

  2. Last time RBG blabbed publicly about how “fit” she was, she suffered all that medical stuff that clearly took its toll on her mental and physical health.

    She’s a selfish person for wanting to be on the court when she dies. Someone has to clean that office up and get the smell of death out.

    Either way, Trump will selecting her successor and the Lefties will really step up the insanity.

  3. Ginsburg’s opposition to court packing is no surprise. She is a serious jurist, after all, not a partisan hack. Of course she would look askance at such blatant meddling with the independence of the judiciary.

    hahahahahahaha.

    1. But seriously it’s probably more because it would cheapen her vote and less because it would render the Supreme Court to an even more retarded partisan side show.

      1. +100

  4. Further proof of senility.

    1. You can see the Lefty media does not want to bad mouth her too bad but they hate that she sided with Gorsuch. The media even tries to say that Gorsuch sided with her.

      Lefties know that she wont make it through Trump’s next term but have to keep up appearances. This way they can justify completely lose their minds when Trump gets to replace RBG… “because Ginsburg is now following in Brandeis’ admirable footsteps. She deserves credit for putting judicial integrity before partisan politics.

  5. “Ginsburg’s opposition to court packing is no surprise. She is a serious jurist, after all, not a partisan hack.”

    To quote Sean Connery in one movie or another “You must be joking”.

    Is she wasn’t a partisan hack, she’d retire with some dignity instead of sleeping through cases. If she wasn’t a partisan hack, she wouldn’t be far any away the most predictable vote on the bench in the last 30+ years.

    Admirable for this position, sure (tho I think we could be better having a court of 15-20 with a randomly selected 9 for each case to prevent shortages). Easy to be principled in this case when it’s not your guy doing the picking tho…

    1. She could have retired when Obama was President and the Democrats controlled the Senate.

      She fucked up and chose this strategy which will result in her corpse being replaced by a Trump nominee.

    2. “I think we could be better having a court of 15-20 with a randomly selected 9 for each case to prevent shortages”

      Congress does not have the authority to set operating rules for SCOTUS.

      AFIK, the only thing stopping SCOTUS from hearing cases with 3 justice panels and the option of enbanc review like Congress has directed the Circuit courts to work is SCOTUS itself.

      Absent a constitutional amendment, that is not likely change even if the number of justices is drastically increased.

      P.S.: would you still advocate increasing the size of the court if Trump gets to appoint all the new justices?

      1. The SCOTUS absolutely gets to decide most of the cases they take, procedures on hearing cases, and how to operate the courts. The Judicial powers vested in this Branch and the cases that the SCOTUS must hear are described in constitution.

  6. So the clock stopped at 12:20 PM?

  7. wasn’t being a partisan hack how she made her name?

  8. Hackish if not an outright. . . Oops, outleft, hack herself.

  9. She is a serious jurist, after all, not a partisan hack.

    I would say she’s kind of both.

  10. “Ginsburg is now following in Brandeis’ admirable footsteps. She deserves credit for putting judicial integrity before partisan politics”

    Hahahahahahahahaha… You mean she’s refusing to resign even though she is no longer competent for the position, to deny Trump another appointment.

    That’s not integrity, she’s packing the court herself with her own political persuasion by staying on a job she can no longer do.

    FFS Damon, you’re not even trying.

    1. Are we sure she’s still alive? #WeekendAtBernies #DeadParrotSkit

  11. all depends on what you think judicial integrity is I guess

  12. “Ginsburg also knows her history. ”

    History? She was there. Hell, she probably voted for FDR.

    1. Not quite, she would only have been 11 in 44 when FDR was re-elected to his final term.

      1. If democrats can vote multiple times when they are dead, why can’t (don’t) they vote at 11?
        After, at 11 they can determine if they are boys or girls.

  13. Just how could the democrat/progressives pick judges that will vote they way that they are wanted to vote unless they have an agreement with the candidate to vote a certain way? So we must know what they are going to do if they expand the Supreme Court.

  14. On a related topic, have any democratic wannabes released a list of those they would nominate for the supremes if elected?

  15. She is a serious jurist, after all, not a partisan hack.

    But is she?

  16. Court packing didn’t fail it was rendered unnecessary when Owen Roberts switched from opposing the New Deal to supporting it and one of the conservative judges Van Devanter retired.

    1. My father’s mother was a distant cousin of Justice Van Devanter.
      When he retired in 1937, he was 78 (he died in 1941). Devanter lamented that had he retired when Hoover was president, FDR would not have had the opportunity to replace him. Let’s hope Justice Thomas doesn’t make the same mistake.

      1. That’s extremely interesting. However Hoover’s three nominations were extremely squishy (Roberts was one arch leftist Cardozo was another) so even if he had retired I fear Hoover would have simply nominated another leftist to take his place.

  17. Thanks for the history and perspective, Damon. It’s always a sign of victory for liberty, when you can trigger such hatred from the the Authoritarian Right (or Left).

    How many of them know she defended Gorsuch and Kavanaugh from verbal assault in that same interview? Not everyone is a mindless tribal puppet. Actually, it’s a shrinking minority, authoritarians of all shades combined. Soon they’ll be gone …

    1. It’s nice to know the justices get along together personally while totally ripping each other to pieces in their opinions. A distinction worth observing. Love the sinner, hate the sin.

      Of course, it’s possible that to the extent they get along despite differences of opinion, it’s because (a) they have to work together and personal bickering would make the job less comfortable and desirable, and (b) they have a lot of other things in common – like legal careers, nice jobs on the Supreme Court whoever wins the voting, and worrying about their own and their colleagues’ health, providing another reason for solidarity.

      1. It would be more interesting to know how each Justice relates to, say, the custodial and security staff, or the cafeteria workers, or in general to people they’ve been trained all their professional lives to regard as “the help.”

      2. So … you say that it’s “totally ripping each other to pieces” if two people … disagree … or hold opposing views. You sound like Trump!

        Your second paragraph may be even worse. You assume everyone MUST be like you … even though the vast majority of humans are repelled by your ilk,

  18. Each side “packs” the court in the sense of looking for philosophically-compatible judges when vacancies occur. This is certainly court-packing, albeit slow-motion packing. But FDR was able to do it (“anno domini is your invincible ally,” one supporter told the Pres), by outliving most of the justices who voted against him and appointing justices who voted for him. So, yes, Roosevelt did pack the court.

    The establishment has so far drawn the line at *creating* vacancies on the Supreme Court (I mean peacefully, by impeachment or establishing new judgeships).

  19. Duh, what supreme in their right mind wouldn’t say they’re against “court packing” in an interview? Sheeeesh!

  20. Since the court is already packed, it’s too late anyway.

  21. Unfortunately, I’m now wondering if “court packing” is a good idea since she is literally wrong on everything.

  22. Well what we have is a new word “court packing” for a practice that has went on since the start of the United States. A president tries hard to nominate and get approved judges that their judicial philosophy is in line with their political beliefs. Why would you expect something different?

  23. “Ginsburg’s opposition to court packing is no surprise. She is a serious jurist, after all, not a partisan hack. Of course she would look askance at such blatant meddling with the independence of the judiciary.”

    Who are you trying to convince with this assertion, Root? Much like RBG declaring, “I am very much alive,” methinks, you doth protest too much.

  24. “The liberal jurist puts judicial integrity before partisan politics.”

    Well there’s a first time for everything.

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