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Newton congressman co-sponsors bill to expand Supreme Court
Proposed legislation would add four seats to nation's highest court
Newton congressman cosponsors Supreme Court making bill - Hank Johnson
From left, Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and Rep. Mondaire Jones, D-N.Y., hold a news conference outside the Supreme Court to announce legislation to expand the number of seats on the high court, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, April 15, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON — One Newton congressman has joined an effort to add four seats to the U.S. Supreme Court.

U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., joined Sen. Edward J. Markey, D–Mass., Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.) on Thursday held a press conference at the U.S. Capitol to introduce the Judiciary Act of 2021, which would “restore balance to the nation’s highest court after four years of norm-breaking actions by Republicans led to its current composition and greatly damaged the Court’s standing in the eyes of the American people,” according to a statement from Johnson’s office. 

The bill’s introduction came only days after President Joe Biden created a 36-member commission to study potential structural changes to the Supreme Court. 

Johnson, who represents portions of Newton and Rockdale counties, said the bill would create a 13-justice Supreme Court, which is the same number of circuit courts of appeals.

“It’s easy to take for granted that the number of justices on the Supreme Court must be nine,” said Johnson, who chairs the Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet. “But it is not written in the Constitution and has changed seven times over the course of this country’s history.  Thirteen justices would mean one justice per circuit court of appeals, consistent with how the number of justices was originally determined, so each justice can oversee one circuit.  It’s time that we start thinking about the Supreme Court like we think about the rest of the federal government and consider whether and how its current composition allows it to effectively do what we need it to do — efficiently and effectively administer justice and uphold the rule of law. I am pleased to join my colleagues, Senator Markey, Chairman Nadler, and Representative Jones in taking an important step in that direction today with the introduction of the Judiciary Act of 2021.”

Six of the nine current justices are considered conservative-leaning, including three of which were appointed by former President Donald J. Trump during only one term in office.

Other sponsors of the bill also made remarks during the news conference.

“Republicans stole the Court’s majority, with Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation completing their crime spree,” Markey said. “Of all the damage Donald Trump did to our Constitution, this stands as one of his greatest travesties. Senate Republicans have politicized the Supreme Court, undermined its legitimacy, and threatened the rights of millions of Americans, especially people of color, women, and our immigrant communities. This legislation will restore the Court’s balance and public standing and begin to repair the damage done to our judiciary and democracy, and we should abolish the filibuster to ensure we can pass it.”

The number of justices that sit on the Supreme Court is reportedly set by a simple act of Congress and can be changed the same way without requiring a constitutional amendment. Congress has adjusted the size of the court seven times throughout its history, a spokesperson from Johnson’s office stated, ranging from six to 10 justices and establishing a substantial historical precedent for the legislation.

Despite the group’s initiative, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has told multiple news sources she plans not to bring the bill to the floor.

Newton County’s other congressman, U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., stated his opposition against the bill in a column released just hours after the bill’s introduction, describing the bill as a “power grab” by Democrats.

“Power grabs don’t get much more blatant than this,” he wrote.

Hice currently represents portions of Newton and Walton counties. He recently announced his intentions to run for Georgia’s Secretary of State and give up his congressional position to become the state’s top elections official.