Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich on Tuesday wrote a letter to Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), urging them to reject the House Democrat proposal to expand the Supreme Court from nine to 13 seats.
Brnovich said in his letter (pdf) that efforts to expand the nation’s top court would be “nothing less than a direct assault on judicial independence.”
“The cornerstone of our Constitution rests on the notion that power is divided between separated branches of government. This unique system creates checks and balances—an essential defense against any form of tyranny,” he continued.
His letter to the two senators came in reaction to the proposal that was put forward last week. The Judiciary Act of 2021 would add four seats to the nation’s top court, effectively flipping the balance from six to three in favor of conservative-appointed justices, to seven to six in the opposite direction.
Lobbying efforts by liberal activists to “pack the court” have ramped up in recent months following their unsuccessful attempt last year to stop then-Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination.
Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) introduced the bill with Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), and Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.).
Nadler sought to justify the proposal by saying that 13 seats would match the 13 circuit courts.
Brnovich told Sinema and Kelly that he was “very disturbed” to learn that Congress may soon be entertaining legislation to “dramatically redesign the Supreme Court of the United States.”
He urged the Democratic senators not to back the measure if it comes to a vote.
“History has demonstrated that when elected officials propose legislation to alter the composition of the Supreme Court, their real motives are less than noble. In fact, these misguided actions have almost always attempted to bypass the principles of the Constitution in a quest for more power,” Brnovich continued.
The attorney general noted that the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 2019 said that she thought it was a “bad idea” when former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt tried to pack the court.
“The institution of the Supreme Court is not, and must never be, accountable to other branches of government, but only to the Constitution of the United States. Term limits for the justices do not exist so they can remain focused on the law and not be concerned with ever changing political trends and special interests,” he wrote.
“I urge you to vocally and adamantly oppose any attempts to blatantly undermine our Constitution and the independence of our judiciary,” Brnovich concluded.
The letter comes just days after Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said during an appearance on Fox News that efforts to expand the Supreme Court will likely “destroy” the rule of law and politicize the judiciary.
Similarly, several groups of Republican lawmakers have launched countermeasures in an effort to keep the number of seats on the bench to nine. Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), chair of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, announced his effort the same day the group of Democrats promoted their new bill. The GOP proposal requires an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to limit the number of justices.
A number of Democrats including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have yet to completely back the bill.
“I have no plans to bring it to the floor,” Pelosi told reporters in Washington. Instead, she said she supports President Joe Biden’s commission to study possible reforms to the court.
Earlier this month, Biden signed an executive order to form a commission to study possible reforms to the court, including proposals to expand it. He presented the idea of a commission as an alternative to “court-packing” efforts.
Janita Kan contributed to this report.