Reform the judiciary, FFRF exhorts the Senate

Durbin Grassley

Expand and rebalance the federal judiciary, the Freedom From Religion Foundation is appealing to the U.S. Senate.

The Senate is holding a hearing tomorrow, Wednesday, Sept. 29, about the infamously anti-abortion Texas law, which the Supreme Court failed to enjoin, and the Supreme Court’s recent abuse of the shadow docket. Both are symptoms of a deeper sickness on this court, FFRF stresses. Without a true cure, these symptoms will recur and others will manifest.

“The deeper malady is a federal judiciary that has already been stacked with ideologues who were handpicked by shadowy interest groups for their extremist and Christian nationalist credentials, including their commitment to overturning Roe v. Wade,” FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor write to Sens. Dick Durbin and Chuck Grassley, chair and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

President Trump’s appointments now make up one-third of the federal judiciary, including a third of the Supreme Court, FFRF underscores. Court expansion is the only way to correct the damage done to the Supreme Court after Sen. Mitch McConnell (then Senate majority leader) stole two seats. The courts are already “packed.”

Court expansion of the lower federal judiciary is objectively long overdue, given that Congress hasn’t expanded the courts of appeals since 1990, when 179 active judges served 250 million Americans. Today, with a population of 330 million Americans, there are still only 179 active judges serving on the appeals courts — and they are swamped.

The shadow docket in the previous presidential term began to look like collusion between Trump justices and the Trump administration, FFRF points out. In four years, President Trump’s administration made 41 requests of the shadow docket and prevailed in 28. In contrast, only eight requests were filed in the 16 previous years spanning the two terms of both George W. Bush and Barack Obama — and they only won four. The recent further abuse of the shadow docket during President Biden’s tenure has shown that five justices, including all of the Trump justices, have already made up their minds on many important issues.

The right-wing lurch of the Supreme Court must be corrected, FFRF emphasizes. Several strong bills have been introduced that would, together, expand the entire judiciary, including the Supreme Court, and would create ethical mandates for Supreme Court justices, which are currently sadly lacking, FFRF reminds the Judiciary Committee.

“Allowing a small group of hyperconservative extremists and theocrats to rewrite constitutional law jeopardizes the fundamental rights of every American,” FFRF’s letter concludes. “Court reform, expansion and rebalance is the way to restore public confidence in the judiciary, and to preserve myriad hard-fought human and civil rights.”

The testimony is being submitted on behalf of the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) and its 35,000 secular members. FFRF is a national nonprofit organization with members in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Its purposes are to protect the constitutional separation between state and church, and to educate the public about nontheism.


Freedom From Religion Foundation

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