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Like Biden and Harris, law school deans refuse to comment on court packing question

In the recent presidential and vice presidential debates, Democratic nominee Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris refused to answer where they stand on adding seats to the Supreme Court.

They’re not alone.

Deans of many of the top laws schools ignored multiple requests for comment by phone and email from The College Fix over the last 10 days to discuss the Constitutionality of packing the Supreme Court and how the topic is currently playing out not only in the presidential campaign but also as part of the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

Among those contacted were the deans of Harvard, Yale, NYU, University of Pennsylvania, Stanford and Columbia law schools.

Packing the Supreme Court refers to “reports that some Democrats would consider using congressional powers to change the number of Justices on the Court if they were to regain control of the White House and both chambers of Congress in 2021,” according to Constitution Daily.

It adds that “under the Constitution, the number of Supreme Court Justices is not fixed, and Congress can change it by passing an act that is then signed by the President.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to begin its confirmation hearing of Judge Barrett on Oct. 12. The court packing move “would be aimed at tipping the balance of the Supreme Court back in favor of liberals if Democrats manage to take the Senate and the presidency,” Fox News reports.

Some of the deans contacted by The College Fix said they had no comment, while others didn’t respond at all.

The College Fix also asked the deans to weigh in on President Trump’s decision to nominate a new justice during his last few months in office.

One school that did respond to a College Fix inquiry with some sort of comment was the University of Chicago Law School through its Professor of Constitutional Law Geoffery Stone, who addressed the timing of Barrett’s nomination.

He said it is constitutional, but it didn’t keep with presidential tradition.

“Nothing in the Constitution dictates when a President can nominate a Justice to fill a vacancy on the Court,” Stone said via email. “The historical tradition, though, is that presidents almost never do this and (it’s my understanding that) a president has done this only four prior times after July 1 and that none of those nominees have been confirmed.”

Stone said that the president “definitely should wait to see the outcome of the election. As noted above, that is the well-established tradition.”

He then referenced Senator Mitch McConnell’s objections to President Barack Obama’s SCOTUS nominee Merrick Garland during the 2016 election year, saying of McConnell, “it is completely hypocritical and immoral for him to change the rules when it benefits him (and Trump) politically.”

In 2016, it was Democrats who were defending President Obama’s SCOTUS nomination during an election year. That year the University of Chicago Law School hosted President Obama, who taught constitutional law for over 10 years at the school, to advocate for it.

He spoke to students defending his nomination of Garland and called the Republicans pushback on his nominee “a circumstance in which those in the Senate have decided that placating (their) base is more important than upholding the constitutional and institutional roles in our democracy in a way that is dangerous,” the Chicago Tribune reported.

MORE: 350 law professors demanded vote on Obama’s last Supreme Court nominee. Four say the same for Trump’s.

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About the Author
Jessica Resuta -- Franciscan University of Steubenville