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Letters to the Editor: Democrats must pack the Supreme Court. Democracy depends on it

Lights glows from the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington during the early morning hours of Sept. 16, 2019.
(Alex Wong / Getty Images)

To the editor: If your wallet was stolen, would you forgo trying to recover it because it might be stolen again?

That is essentially what the Los Angeles Times Editorial Board suggested by arguing that expanding the number of seats on the Supreme Court is a “terrible idea” because there would be nothing to “prevent a future Republican Congress and president from following suit.”

Republicans already changed the number of justices — to eight — when they stole the court in 2016. Democrats should not give up efforts to recover the court, even if that means the GOP might do it again.

Professor Thomas Keck at Syracuse University distinguishes between constitutional hardball that erodes democracy and constitutional hardball that reinforces it. The Supreme Court has sabotaged democracy by destroying the Voting Rights Act, blessing hyper-partisan gerrymandering and allowing unlimited dark money to flood our politics. All of this has been in service of making it easier for Republicans to win elections.

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Democrats can fight back. If they return to power, kill the filibuster, pass an aggressive Voting Rights Act that adds 40 million voters to the rolls and expand the court, democracy can be restored.

If Democrats fail to expand the court, the conservative justices will destroy a new Voting Rights Act, just like they destroyed the last one.

Aaron Belkin, San Francisco

The writer, a professor of political science at San Francisco State University, is director of the group Take Back the Court.

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To the editor: The lifetime appointments that made sense to the Constitution’s framers in the 1700s are no longer helpful today. But there are other shortcomings that your editorial did not address.

An age limit, which other countries have, should be considered. Also, reconstitute the court to function as a federal court of appeals. Panels of justices could be drawn from 12-15 members, while retaining an en banc review option. Our nine-member court is small compared to other countries.

Lastly, the U.S. Senate is a wildly unrepresentative institution. At minimum, requiring 60 votes for Supreme Court appointments versus a simple majority would help counter the extreme partisanship exhibited during recent confirmations.

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Jennifer Pinkerton, Glendale

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To the editor: You say that court-packing is a terrible idea.

It was — until Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) violated norms with President Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland and then, under President Trump, packed the federal judiciary with conservative judges, some of whom were rated “not qualified” by the American Bar Assn.

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It is true that Republicans may take up the game if the Democrats enlarge not just the Supreme Court, but also the entire federal judiciary (which is what I want them to do), but I’m not going to worry about the Republicans being in a position to do that.

The Trump Republican Party is going to wither over time and become inconsequential, while the old-time Republicans will form a new conservative party that will take some time to become competitive. Meanwhile, the Democrats will have time to make substantial structural changes.

The Democrats should not refrain from being bold because they fear the wrath of the Republicans.

Muriel Schuerman, Downey


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