Moderator Emily Bazelon, staff writer, New York Times Magazine, is joined by Alicia Bannon, managing director, Democracy Program, Brennan Center for Justice; Aaron Tang, professor of law, University of California, Davis School of Law; and Franita Tolson, vice dean for faculty and academic affairs and professor of law at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law to look at the Supreme Court, its history, construct, and role to interpret the Constitution and dispense justice equally above the churn of politics.
Politics however, has never been far from the Court. Now, as in other historical moments, the character of SCOTUS is being challenged. Gaining momentum is a broader push to ensure fair representation for the nation’s larger and more diverse electorate across all branches of government, including the Court. Are there dangers in changing traditions of the highest court or has the time for reform arrived?
The panel will explore questions such as: Are nine justices serving for life – or until they choose to retire – the best construct for the Court? Why is reform being called for now and what are the merits of the various proposals being put forth? Is retaining the fixed structure of the Court essential to sustaining its legitimacy?
Established by Article III of the Constitution with broad strokes, there is no Constitutional language on the size of the Court or how its members are selected. George Washington appointed only six, and the number of Justices on the Court has changed six times before settling at the present total of nine, in 1869.
Federal Hall’s Sam Roberts introduces the program which is presented with the Brennan Center for Justice.
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DEBATE DEFENDS DEMOCRACY is presented by the National Parks of New York Harbor Conservancy at Federal Hall in partnership with New York University and the National Park Service.