Thursday, June 30, 2016

Number of Judges on the Supreme Court



Thursday, June 30, 2016

The New York TimesThe New York Times

Thursday, June 30, 2016


Back Story

The Supreme Court ended its term this week, and it appears that only eight justices, not the usual nine, will sit for the new session that begins in October. There are no plans to hold confirmation hearings for President Obama’s appointee, Judge Merrick B. Garland.
That means more 4-4 deadlocks are possible. But who decided that nine was the magic number?
The Judiciary Act of 1789 originally set the number at six: a chief justice and five associate justices.
In 1801, a lame-duck Congress cut one seat on the Supreme Court just before Thomas Jefferson became president. But the new Congress repealed the measure. A seat was added in 1807, though, so Jefferson had an additional pick.
law in 1837 allowed the number to rise to nine, to serve the needs of the growing nation. A 10th seat came during the Civil War, to guarantee a pro-Union majority.
After President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, the Republican-led Congress tried to ensure that his successor, the Democrat Andrew Johnson, would have no appointments by reducing the number to seven.
Finally, in 1869, Congress restored the number of justices to nine, under Ulysses S. Grant, where it has remained for about 150 years, despite efforts to alter it.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “court-packing plan” sought to expand the bench to as many as 15 justices.

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