Law professor: Court-packing should be 'last resort'

Law professor Richard Hasen said Wednesday that expanding the number of justices on the Supreme Court should be a “last resort” for lawmakers.

“There are a lot of steps before that,” Richard Hasen, a professor of law and political science at the University of California Irvine, told Hill.TV in response to the controversial proposal.

“That would would kind of a last resort if anybody is considering that — there are a lot of other things they could consider first,” he continued.

Hasen added that given the current polarizing political environment, Democrats will likely keep the idea on the table and continue to consider it as a viable option.

“I would say that we’re in a different era right now,” he said. “Many Democrats see the holding up of of Merrick GarlandMerrick Brian GarlandThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Biden VP possible next week; Meadows says relief talks 'miles apart' Senate GOP divided over whether they'd fill Supreme Court vacancy  Hawley will only back Supreme Court picks who have said Roe v. Wade was 'wrongly decided' MORE as changing the number of court justices from nine to eight at least as long as there was a Democrat in the White House.”

Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcGrath reshuffles campaign in home stretch to Senate election GOP senator draws fire from all sides on Biden, Obama-era probes Chris Wallace rips both parties for coronavirus package impasse: 'Pox on both their houses' MORE (R-Ky.) blocked former President Obama's judicial nominees during the final year of his administration. This most notably includes his refusal to hold a vote for Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland in 2016, who was nominated to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. 

The issue of whether to expand the Supreme Court has emerged as a litmus test in the crowded Democratic primary.

Even though it was once dismissed as a fringe idea, a number of 2020 Democrats like South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - The choice: Biden-Harris vs. Trump-Pence California Democrats back Yang after he expresses disappointment over initial DNC lineup Obamas, Clintons to headline Biden's nominating convention MORE and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke have embraced the idea of expanding the high court beyond nine justices.

Court-packing advocates argue that expanding the court is needed to counteract the Supreme Court’s conservative majority.

However, last month, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg dismissed the proposal.

"Nine seems to be a good number. It's been that way for a long time," Ginsburg said in an interview with NPR.

—Tess Bonn