Courtesy of supremecourt.gov
Courtesy of supremecourt.gov

The Supreme Court should be reformed significantly in light of the conservative majority instituting a right-wing agenda, said two prominent legal scholars.

Sherrilyn Ifill, a former director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice, participated Thursday in a panel discussion on Supreme Court and federal court reform co-sponsored by the Center for American Progress and the Brennan Center. CNN analyst Laura Coates moderated the discussion.

Ifill and Waldman have served on a presidential commission to study court reforms in the high court and the lower federal courts. Ifill said the Supreme Court’s recent rulings should remind people that it “sits within our democracy, not outside of it and over it.”

Ifill said it is within the right of Americans to ponder court reforms such as term limits for justices, a binding code of ethics for justices, increased transparency for the court’s “shadow docket” and clearer rules for recusal from cases presenting a conflict of interest.

“We are supposed to be able to correct issues that we see stand in the way of our democracy being able to be true to itself as it could possibly be,” she said.

Waldman urges Congress to expand the number of judges in the lower federal appeals and district courts to keep pace with the expanding population. He noted that the last time the federal courts expanded was in 1990 and the country’s population has grown by 100 million since then.

Ifill said the next Supreme Court term could be worse than the one that ended last month. She said cases focusing on affirmative action, voting rights, and the power of state courts to review elections “could fundamentally upend politics in this country and is the single-most powerful threat to democracy on the court’s docket.”

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