It’s Time to Expand the Supreme Court

The far-right conservatives on the Supreme Court have deeply damaged the public’s trust in the court. They have proven themselves to be a stumbling block that is effectively keeping progress from the people of this country. The only way to fight back against this attack on our freedoms within the political system is to expand the Supreme Court to thirteen seats.

When Justice Amy Coney Barrett was sworn in to the Supreme Court following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Court was suddenly perfectly positioned to end Roe v. Wade, a lightning rod for a far-right, evangelical base. Although many doubted that the Supreme Court would be willing to touch decades of precedent, they did exactly that in the 6-3 ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health that ended federal abortion protections and ushered in both a major legal conundrum and a nationwide public health emergency.

Just this past session, we saw the high court gut affirmative action, legalize discrimination against LGBTQIA+ consumers, further decimate the environment, and complicate student loan forgiveness.

As progressive humanists, we are sadly no strangers to bad laws being passed that are counter to our secular beliefs. However, we are new to a court system that is actively hostile toward the Establishment Clause and true free speech, a system we can longer trust for recourse against unconstitutional laws. Instead, the agenda of far-right Christian nationalism is increasingly finding itself codified in the laws of an otherwise secular nation.

The Supreme Court was designed to be a guardrail to protect from tyranny, not an ax to chop away civil rights. When the court is used as a weapon in this way by far-right, dark money interests, progress will remain in jeopardy for generations. This unelected court has jurisdiction over many intimate and critical aspects of our lives and we cannot vote hard enough to stop them when they have the power (and create precedent) to disenfranchise entire communities.

We cannot afford to throw our hands up when laws and precedents are shredded by the Supreme Court in favor of an extremist interpretation of law and society. Although the high court is extremely powerful, we are not powerless to stop them. We cannot allow six unelected people to rollback the rights we hold dear—from access to abortion and contraception, to being able to learn in public schools without enforced religious dogma, to the right of transgender youth to access basic healthcare.

The most simple but effective reform that is within the power of Congress is to expand the Supreme Court from nine to thirteen seats. Thirteen is a number that makes a lot of sense as it is equal to the number of currently existing federal circuit courts. The addition of four progressive justices to the Supreme Court has the power to balance the votes of reactionary justices who are legislating from the bench and restore some stability to the court. The Constitution has no provision that mandates a certain number of justices on the high court and the number of justices has changed several times throughout the history of the United States.

We can no longer afford the status quo path. We must be bold and dream of a better world for there to be any chance of seeing our rights protected. We must continue to build political power to increase awareness around the dangerous path that the Supreme Court is taking the nation down, and strongly resist it at every step. For the sake of progress and humanity, let’s expand the Supreme Court to thirteen seats.

Read the bill text of the Judiciary Act of 2023 here and take action to support the Humanist Action Alert here!