When Justice Goes Packing

By Debbie Wuthnow

A History of Court Packing

Will the United States be destroyed by the same socialist policies that decimated Venezuela?  

History tells us destruction could be swift if the far Left succeeds in adding Supreme Court seats and packing the court with activist judges. Consider the consequences when those driven by socialist ideology achieve unrestrained power: 

Venezuela, 2004

President Hugo Chavez increased the size of Venezuela’s Supreme Court and appointed justices to fill the additional seats, creating a majority favorable to his views. Only two years after packing the court, Chavez began to implement his oppressive socialist regime. In over 45,000 decisions since then, the court never ruled against any of his socialist policies. Not once! This once-prosperous country now suffers under continuing tyranny largely because President Chavez eliminated an effective check on his and his successor’s power.

Argentina, 1990

At the urging of President Carlos Menem, Argentina’s Congress passed a court-packing bill that added four new seats to their Supreme Court. This enabled what became known as the “automatic majority.” Instead of functioning as an independent upholder of the law, the Supreme Court largely became a seal of approval in the hand of the president. Consider his statement,

"Why should I be the only president in Argentine history not to have my own court?"

United States, 1937

President Franklin Roosevelt proposed the Judicial Procedures Reform Bill which would have allowed him to appoint a total of six new justices to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Why did Roosevelt think the court needed to be “reformed”? During his first term in office, the Supreme Court struck down several of Roosevelt’s “New Deal” economic programs they believed to be an unconstitutional expansion of the federal government’s power. In his mind, the Court was obstructing progress.

Roosevelt defended his court-packing proposition:

"This plan of mine is not attacking of the court; it seeks to restore the court to its rightful and historic place in our system of constitutional government and to have it resume its high task of building anew on the Constitution ‘a system of living law.’"  

This ‘living law’ would ‘build anew’ on the Constitution—in essence, changing it without an amendment as required by the Constitution itself. The president and his appointed judges would bend the Constitution according to their policy demands, rather than looking to the original intent of the Constitution’s authors.

Unlike Venezuela and Argentina, Roosevelt’s court-packing plan was soundly rejected by the American people and Congress, including members of his own Democrat Party.

Have We Learned Our Lesson?

A common thread exists in each of these historical events: a political agenda was being restrained by a court that ruled according to the law. This spurred a plan to add judges who would liberally interpret the law favorably to that agenda. As in the past, the driving motivation behind the current court-packing attempt is the desire for unchecked power. This desire lies at the heart of any cries for “reform” or “restoring balance”.

In the 2022 mid-term elections, you will encounter candidates obsessed with obtaining power at any cost, as well as those committed to the Rule of Law bound by the Constitution. This includes U.S. Senators who confirm the president’s judicial nominees, and both Senators and Representatives who will support or oppose any court-packing bills. These candidates are already preparing for next year. So is the iVoterGuide team. And so can you!

We will be evaluating congressional candidates in all fifty states to provide you the truth about what those office-seekers believe. You and millions of other liberty-minded citizens will determine whether we will be a nation governed by the Rule of Constitutional Law, or suffer the crushing weight of authoritarian dictates cloaked in judicial approval.

I pray we learn from history. With God's providence and with your help, we can!

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