A better court for all Americans

By Benjamin Chase
Posted 7/14/23

The writer expands thoughts on changing the U.S. Supreme Court

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A better court for all Americans


“I’ve been thinkin’ ‘bout catchin’ a train
Leave my phone machine by the radar range
‘Hello it’s me, I’m not at home
If you’d like to reach me, leave me alone’”
“A Change Would Do You Good” — Sheryl Crow

While the fourth single from her self-titled 1996 album has one of the more catchy chorus lines in 90s pop, Sheryl Crow explored some pretty tough social issues within the verses, hitting on homelessness, alcoholism, suicide, and even eating disorders through intelligently crafted lyrics that those in the Hollywood music scene quickly picked up, but the rest of us had to wait until we saw the music video to realize.

The song peaked at No. 19 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, but it reached the top spot on the alternative charts and hit No. 2 in Canada.

It’s still one of Crow’s most-requested tunes at live shows, though it’s not exactly translated to the Spotify generation, as the song is not among her top 10 most popular plays on the app.

Perhaps the idea of change is hard to grasp for the Spotify generation only simply because they’ve seen so much resistance to it.

I have noted this in my favorite pastime, baseball, this year.

Coming into the 2023 season, Major League Baseball chose to implement a handful of impactful rules all at once. The game often made slight adjustments along the way, but usually only one or two new things at a time, and certainly more on the fringes of the game than directly at its core.

The goal? Speeding up the game to attract a younger audience as well as making the gameplay more fluid and exciting.

Baseball fans, however old or young they may be, tend to be pretty hardcore traditionalists, so there was plenty of outcry against the new rules to open the season.

With banning defensive shifts, enlarging the bases, restricting the number of times the pitcher can throw over with a runner on base, and the pitch clock (among other smaller changes), fans believed the 2023 game would be so far different from what had been baseball before that many felt they’d end up discussing the game in the same way many “old-timers” talk about the game before 1969 expansion or 1994’s interleague play and realignment.

The result of all those huge changes that worried fans?

Exactly what MLB wanted - the average game time, coming into this past week’s All-Star break, was down from three hours, three minutes in 2022 to two hours and forty minutes in 2023. That’s chopping off roughly a half hour of the length of a game!

The other changes have sped up the gameplay, but the real results of all the changes to the game, beyond shortening it a half-hour, have been minimal.

Batting average is up 2%, average pitch velocity hasn’t changed, extra-base hits are up 3%, and stolen bases are up notably (41% more), but the 0.72 stolen bases per game would place it around the level of mid-90s baseball, certainly not considered an overly run-happy era.

Even the pitch clock, while speeding up the game, hasn’t drastically impacted the game on the field, with less than one violation called per game on average.

So, all the complaining about these huge changes…resulted in very little change to the game on the field.

That’s a big part of what we’re dealing with regarding the United States Supreme Court.

The Court has changed many times since George Washington nominated the first justices.

That first court had six justices, in order to have two justices to represent each judicial circuit in the country. The size of the court changed six times before nine was settled upon in 1869, 70 years after the Court was originally formed.

Last week, we explored some of the “why” of Supreme Court change, discussing the heavy political and corporate/financial influence that has begun to plague confidence in the Court among society.

This week, we’ll look at an idea of what could change, in order to reduce a significant portion of that influence on future Courts, while also involving the entire country in the court, no matter the region of the country, or a person’s race, religion, sex, sexual preference, or any other demographically-divisive point.

Before we get going on the preferred option, at least in this writer’s opinion, there have been many ideas floated recently among talking political heads as the need for change of the Court has become more pressing.

One thought was to create a non-partisan judicial panel that would henceforth bring all nominations forward and a bi-partisan judicial approval committee from both houses of Congress, with the Vice President as the deciding vote, as he/she would be in the Senate.

Other thoughts revolve around limiting the time a justice can serve, with ideas along the lines of a 10-year limit for all justices to serve before they are to be removed.

However, I believe that a blend of a number of these ideas is really best suited for the country. The big ideas behind this change are three-fold: 1. expand the court, 2. remove D.C. involvement, and 3. empower the people.

Expand the Court
This has become a hot-button issue of late because it’s become a political talking point and even a threatened political weapon. Stick with me here, because you’ll see in the second step of this how expanding the court is not a way to enhance one party or another’s ability to make policy through the judicial branch.

Our country was originally divided into 13 judicial districts by the Judiciary Act of 1789, so there have been 13 districts in this country for centuries, as those original districts corresponded to the total number of states in the entire country!

In today’s modern court makeup, the country’s judicial is split among 13 circuits (there are now 94 districts in the country). Expanding the court to this number one for each circuit - adds four to the court, but as you’ll see in a bit, it’s not simply about expanding the court.

Remove D.C. involvement
The move to change the number of justices has been a political football for many years, with parties in power threatening to expand the court, in order to add those of their own judicial persuasion to the court.

The idea of removing the nomination process from the executive branch has some merit.

However, rather than nominate preferred judges, with many of the “typical” nominees having shared backgrounds of schooling, area of the country, and other demographic characteristics, my idea would be to have each judicial circuit have the power to vote in its own representative justice.

That means each justice on the Supreme Court would be representative to his or her own judicial circuit. South Dakota is in the 8th circuit, which also includes North Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, and Arkansas.

The judge would need to have served within the circuit for a selected number of years, say five, before being eligible to run, but any representative judge within the circuit would be eligible to be a candidate to be voted onto the Supreme Court.

Empower the People
Along with electing Supreme Court justices, the people would also have the power to remove judges from office, as no judge would be in for life once elected. Instead, the judge would need to run every 6-8 years in order to remain on the Court.

The majority of states in the union already do this exact thing for state Supreme Court justices, requiring them to run to retain their seat on the court. This would allow a judge who has lost his or her way, and become politically or financially corrupted, to be removed from the bench by the voting populace.

Another big plus to this representative solution is that United States territories Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam would all be represented. All are currently part of U.S. circuit courts, but many have stated feeling unrepresented among the federal system, whether it be executive, legislative, or judicial branch. This at least would bring one branch into check.

Is this a perfect solution? No, there are probably still tweaks that will need to be made along the way to ensure the process produces representative judges from each circuit.

That said, after the initial shock of the first time or two electing a justice the procedure would become “typical.”

Much like baseball, the changes may seem drastic, but the changes will bring the system back to what it should have been all along, a judicial not dictated by political or financial lean, but instead seeking to best enforce and interpret the Constitution and the law.

A little change in that respect would do the entire country a lot of good.