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Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas: Court-packing threatens America’s institutions

U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas arrives for the ceremonial swearing in of Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on October 08, 2018.
U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas arrives for the ceremonial swearing in of Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on October 08, 2018. | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Two weeks ago, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas — widely considered the strongest conservative on the Court — was released from the hospital, after he was admitted for a few days for an infection. We at First Liberty are keeping him in our prayers, wishing him a speedy and full recovery.

As he continues to recover, we want to highlight one of the many reasons why Justice Thomas is held in high regard: He is not afraid to speak the truth.

During a speaking engagement, Justice Thomas recently warned that court-packing is dangerous to the integrity of the Court and threatens to destroy core institutions of our Republic. He stated:

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“You can cavalierly talk about packing or stacking the court. You can cavalierly talk about doing this or doing that. At some point the institution is going to be compromised … By doing this, you continue to chip away at the respect of the institutions that the next generation is going to need if they’re going to have civil society.”

He continued his criticism of the court-packing scheme, calling it out as a brazen power-grab by those on one side of the political spectrum to rig the judiciary in their favor when rulings don’t go their way:

“Let’s be honest. This is really about the results they want. They haven’t been able to make the institutions do what they want, to give them what they want. That’s no court at all. That’s no rule of law.”

Justice Thomas, however, is not the only Supreme Court Justice who’s spoken out against court-packing. Justices Amy Coney Barret and Stephen Breyer have also voiced their concerns.

In an interview with Fox News, Justice Breyer, one of the Court’s liberal justices, had this to say about proposals to increase the number of seats:

“Well, if one party could do it, I guess another party could do it…On the surface it seems to me you start changing all these things around, and people will lose trust in the court.”

Echoing Justice Breyer, Justice Barrett stated:

“This court is not comprised of a bunch of partisan hacks … judicial philosophies are not the same as political parties … and here’s the thing: Sometimes, I don’t like the results of my decisions. But it’s not my job to decide cases based on the outcome I want.”

The universe in which Justices Thomas and Barrett find themselves in agreement with Justice Breyer is probably quite small. But these statements are evidence that conservative and liberal justices agree that court-packing is dangerous.

Because court-packing poses a threat to judicial independence and many of our constitutional freedoms, First Liberty launched a major, national campaign (Supreme Court Coup) to expose the plot to pack the Supreme Court.

We commissioned a national survey — and by a two-thirds majority (68%) Americans rejected court-packing. Why do so many people in oppose it? Here are five key reasons:

  • It would undermine the legitimacy of the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • It would destroy our Constitution’s founding principle of separation of powers.
  • It would eradicate our cherished rights and freedoms, including religious liberty.
  • It would politicize the high court, leaving it beholden to whichever party holds power.
  • It would erode confidence in court rulings and the institution as a whole.

Court-packing has not made headlines recently. But this does not mean it’s no longer a threat.

Remember, there’s already a bill pending in Congress that would add four new justices to the Supreme Court.

What’s more, court-packing advocates are notorious for demanding “reform” whenever a Court ruling does not play in their favor. It would not be surprising to see a resurgent call for court-packing in June, depending on how the Court rules in multiple key cases. Those include cases on abortion, gun rights and multiple religious liberty cases — including two First Liberty cases the Court will decide this year: Coach Kennedy and Treat Children Fairly.

Make no mistake: If court-packing is implemented, the result could be catastrophic for our country. The Left’s court “reform” scheme could be the gateway to tyranny, the beginning of an America where religious liberty and all other freedoms are granted not by God, but are decided by the heavy hand of government.

Originally published at First Liberty. 

Lauren Moses is a contract writer for First Liberty Institute. She currently holds a position at the University of Mississippi Declaration of Independence Center for the Study of American Freedom. Lauren earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science from Ole Miss and is currently working on a master’s in philosophy from UM.

Jorge Gomez is the Content Strategist and Senior Writer for First Liberty Institute. He has previously worked as a communications and messaging strategist for faith-based nonprofits and conservative policy organizations. He holds a degree in political science from the University of Central Florida and a master’s degree in public policy from Liberty University.

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