U.S. Supreme Court

Law profs abound on Biden's new commission to study changing the Supreme Court

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Law professors make up the bulk of the members on President Joe Biden’s newly created Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court of the United States, tasked with studying proposals to reform the high court.

The 36-member commission will examine the merits and legality of reform proposals, including ideas to impose term limits on justices and to expand the court, the New York Times reports. The commission will also examine the court’s case selection, rules and practices, according to a White House press release.

The commission will host public hearings and complete a report within 180 days of its first public meeting, according to the press release and an executive order.

Law.com reports that “the vast majority” of commission members are law professors. The publication also counts 18 members who have clerked for Supreme Court justices, including liberals Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Thurgood Marshall and conservatives Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

Co-chairs of the commission are Bob Bauer, a professor at the New York University School of Law and a former White House counsel in the Obama administration; and Cristina Rodríguez, a professor at Yale Law School and a former Department of Justice official in the Obama administration who had clerked for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

Commission members include representatives from the conservative and liberal ends of the ideological spectrum, the New York Times points out. The members include:

• William Baude, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School and a former law clerk to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. Baude has written about the Supreme Court’s shadow docket.

• Laurence Tribe, a professor emeritus at Harvard Law School who advised Democrats during the first impeachment of former President Donald Trump. He has argued 35 cases before the Supreme Court.

• Sherrilyn Ifill, the president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Ifill has been mentioned as a possible Supreme Court nominee during the Biden administration.

• Jack Balkin, a law professor at Yale, creator of the Balkinization blog and director of Yale’s Information Society Project and its Knight Law and Media Program.

• Andrew Manuel Crespo, a law professor at Harvard who wrote a law review article arguing that the expertise of litigators arguing criminal cases before the Supreme Court is “exceedingly lopsided.”

• Walter Dellinger, a partner at O’Melveny & Myers, a former professor at the Duke University School of Law and a former acting solicitor general. He has argued 25 cases before the Supreme Court.

• Nancy Gertner, a law professor at Harvard and a former federal judge who was appointed by former President Bill Clinton.

• Jack Goldsmith, a law professor at Harvard and a co-founder of the Lawfare blog. He was a DOJ official in the George W. Bush administration.

• Thomas B. Griffith, a special counsel at Hunton Andrews Kurth and a former judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He was appointed to the appeals court by Bush.

• David F. Levi, a former law dean at Duke, a former federal judge and former U.S. attorney.

• Richard Pildes, a law professor at New York University and an expert on American democracy. He once clerked for Marshall.

• Adam White, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

• Tara Leigh Grove, a constitutional professor at the University of Alabama School of Law who has written about judicial legitimacy and judicial independence.

See also:

ABAJournal.com: “Breyer says expanding Supreme Court could erode trust, proponents should ‘think long and hard’”

ABAJournal.com: “As Biden staffs SCOTUS reform group, GOP senators back constitutional amendment to block expanded court”

ABAJournal.com: “Idea of court packing gains traction among some Democrats; are there alternatives?”

ABA Journal: “Justice by Numbers: Proposals resurface to expand the size of the court”

Updated April 19 at 11:04 a.m. to add Grove to the list.

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