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 GarlandDavid Axelrod after Ginsburg cancer treatment: Supreme Court vacancy could 'tear this country apart' Law professor: Court-packing should be 'last resort' Here's how senators can overcome their hyperpartisanship with judicial nominees 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 McConnellDavid Axelrod after Ginsburg cancer treatment: Supreme Court vacancy could 'tear this country apart' Pelosi asks Democrats for 'leverage' on impeachment Democrats press FBI, DHS on response to white supremacist violence 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 ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegSteyer calls on DNC to expand polling criteria for debates The Hill's 12:30 Report: Stocks sink as Trump fights with Fed, China Gabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates 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