Two conservatives step down from Biden’s commission to study Supreme Court reform

A number of prominent progressives have recommended expanding the size of the U.S. Supreme Court as a counterbalance to its current conservative majority.

For his part, President Joe Biden essentially punted the issue by creating a bipartisan commission to study court reform proposals — and two conservative members of that panel recently resigned their appointed positions.

“It was an honor”

According to The Hill, University of Virginia law professor Caleb Nelson and Harvard University law professor Jack Goldsmith announced that they would be stepping down from the commission.

Nelson previously served as a clerk for Justice Clarence Thomas and Goldsmith was the head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel under former President George W. Bush.

Although Goldsmith did not directly address his decision, Nelson declared that “it was an honor” to be part of the commission.

Biden confirmed the resignations, thanking both men for their participation without offering any further explanation.

“These two commissioners have chosen to bring their involvement to a close,” said White House spokesman Andrew Bates. “We respect their decision and very much appreciate the significant contributions that they made during the last five months in terms of preparing for these deliberations.”

Progressives push back

The timing of the resignations is notable because it came just one day after the commission issued a set of preliminary draft reports on the pros and cons of various Supreme Court reform proposals.

Among the potential actions was expanding — or “packing” — the court with the immediate or gradual addition of two or more additional justices.

In a separate report, The Hill noted that while the commission declined to take a definitive position for or against the concept, it warned of “considerable” risks associated with an act that would likely be seen as partisan or illegitimate.

Progressives serving on the commission reportedly bristled at that language, according to leaked excerpts of the meeting published by left-leaning group Demand Justice. For his part, Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe was reportedly upset that the draft report “created the impression” that there were more arguments against court-packing than for it, effectively pouring “cold water” on the concept.

It seems clear that there is plenty left to debate regarding the perceived merits of expanding the nation’s highest court, which makes the exit of two conservatives particularly concerning to those Americans who believe the number of justices should remain at nine.

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