Supreme Court Lifetime Appointments Opposed by 63% of Americans: Poll

A significant majority of Americans approve of ending lifetime appointments for Supreme Court judges, new polling shows.

A group of Democratic lawmakers on Thursday unveiled a proposal to "pack" the Supreme Court, adding four new justices so there would be 13 judges instead of the current nine. The effort came after former President Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Senate added three new conservative justices to the nation's top court to replace deceased and retiring judges, shifting the courts balance to a 6-to-3 conservative majority.

While relatively few American support expanding the Supreme Court, according to the new polling by Reuters and Ipsos, most would like to see some kind of term or age limits placed on judges serving in the judicial body. The survey found that 63 percent of Americans approve of ending the current lifetime appointment system, which allows justices to serve until they retire, die or are impeached.

Just 22 percent said they would oppose term limits, and the rest of respondents did not have an opinion on the suggested change.

Supreme Court
The majority of Americans approve of adding term or age limits for Supreme Court justices. The photo above shows the Supreme Court building in Washington D.C. on April 17 DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images

Meanwhile, just 38 percent of those polled said they would approve of adding four additional justices to the top court, as the group of Democratic lawmakers has proposed. Comparatively, 42 percent said they opposed the idea, and the rest of Americans were unsure.

Although many Democrats, and particularly progressives, have been calling for serious judicial reforms and potentially packing the Supreme Court for some time, the proposal revealed this week does not appear to have any path forward at the present. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, said that she has "no plans to bring it to the floor" for a vote.

But President Joe Biden has also formed a bi-partisan committee to examine the idea of adding more justices as well as other possible changes.

Republicans have vocally opposed the idea. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican who was key to pushing through Trump's conservative judicial nominees, has condemned the Democrats' consideration of such proposals.

"Democrats keep showing they don't care about norms and institutions, only power. The latest example: a bill to pack the Supreme Court and destroy its legitimacy to guarantee the rulings liberals want," McConnell tweeted on Thursday.

Democrats keep showing they don’t care about norms and institutions, only power. The latest example: a bill to pack the Supreme Court and destroy its legitimacy to guarantee the rulings liberals want.

— Leader McConnell (@LeaderMcConnell) April 15, 2021

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, strongly criticized the proposal as well.

"Democrats want to add 4 new justices to the Supreme Court of their choosing to force their socialist agenda on the American people. They would rather dismantle this nation than dignify the Constitution. It should scare every single American," McCarthy wrote on Twitter last week.

Despite Republican concerns, the number of Supreme Court justices has been changed multiple times throughout American history. Proponents of a court-packing plan point out that the number of Supreme Court justices as well as other judicial reforms are the purview of Congress, although the current level of nine judges has been in place since 1869. Prior to that, the number of top court justices was changed six times.