Two conservatives resign from Biden's Supreme Court commission

Two conservative members have resigned from the bipartisan panel President BidenJoe BidenCDC working to tighten testing requirement for international travelers On The Money — Powell pivots as inflation rises Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by ExxonMobil — Manchin seeks 'adjustments' to spending plan MORE assembled to study proposals for reforming the Supreme Court. 

The departures Friday came from University of Virginia law professor Caleb Nelson, a former clerk to Justice Clarence ThomasClarence ThomasHow religious liberty was distorted in the age of COVID-19 Supreme Court wrestles with limits on digital billboard ads, free speech Winsome Sears: The latest Black conservative to make liberals nervous MORE, and Harvard Law professor Jack Goldsmith, former top official in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel under President George W. Bush.

Nelson confirmed to The Hill that he resigned, adding “it was an honor for me to be part of the Commission.” Goldsmith did not immediately respond to requests for comment. 

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The White House expressed its appreciation for the professors' five-month tenure on the commission, but did not provide an explanation for the departures.

“These two commissioners have chosen to bring their involvement to a close,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement. “We respect their decision and very much appreciate the significant contributions that they made during the last 5 months in terms of preparing for these deliberations.”

The resignations came a day after the commission released preliminary findings that assessed the advantages and drawbacks of several court reform proposals. 

Although the commission did not take positions on the potential measures, the draft report sounded a note of caution about the risks associated with adding justices to the bench, a measure favored by some liberals.

When the commission convened Friday, several liberal members criticized the draft discussion materials over its treatment of the court expansion proposal, according to excerpts of the meeting distributed by the progressive court reform advocacy group Demand Justice.

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Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe said the draft report “created the impression that although as a theoretical matter enlarging the court is a possibility, the arguments for it are swamped by the arguments against.”

“I think a report that pours cold water on the one clearly legitimate exercise of congressional power to respond to a major jurisprudential trend … would be a report I would have trouble signing,” Tribe said, according to excerpts of his remarks.

The debate over reform comes amid a recent dropoff in the 6-3 conservative majority court’s approval rating and at the start of a blockbuster term in which the justices will hear a direct challenge to the landmark 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade and a gun rights case that could result in the expansion of the Second Amendment.

The court faced backlash for several controversial rulings made recently under its emergency procedures, or so-called shadow docket, and an explosive term with the potential to drastically alter American life could amplify calls from the left for the High Court’s overhaul.