49°F
weather icon Partly Cloudy

Thomas Knapp: A proposal — cut the Supreme Court’s size

Well, here we go again.

On June 27, U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement, effective July 31.

Cue crisis, as defined by President John F. Kennedy’s inaccurate characterization of the Chinese analog: “Two characters, one representing danger and the other, opportunity.” Democrats and Republicans have, for 30 years, alternated between anticipation and fear, depending on which party was in position to choose Kennedy’s successor.

As a “swing vote” — reliably tied to neither party’s policy agenda — since the day he donned the robe in 1988, there’s never been a convenient time for Kennedy to retire, a time when his retirement wouldn’t have constituted a nuclear bomb dropped smack in the middle of America’s political debate.

That effect is magnified by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s 2016 decision to hold off on confirming President Barack Obama’s appointment of Merrick Garland to replace the late Antonin Scalia because there was an election coming soon and he wanted to wait for a new president to choose someone else.

Well, there’s an election coming soon, and suddenly the roles are reversed. Mitch and the Republicans are in a hurry and Democrats are inclined (especially if they can get a little bit of “moderate Republican” help) to drag their feet.

I have a better idea: Cut the court.

President Donald Trump should announce that he is holding off on appointing a successor for Kennedy and asking Congress to reduce the size of the court to seven justices, effective with the NEXT retirement. If Congress complies, that next retirement will likely be Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is 85 and holding on for dear life rather than allow her successor to be chosen by a Republican president.

The size of the Supreme Court is entirely up to Congress. The Constitution prescribes no specific number of justices, and Congress has set the number as low as five (in 1801) and as high as 10 (in 1863).

Cutting the court to seven would be a win for Republicans. Shedding Kennedy and Ginsburg would reduce the court’s “left” wing by one-and-a-half justices and its “right” wing by only one-half (Kennedy being half fish, half fowl, so to speak), without a bruising confirmation battle right before an election.

Cutting the court to seven would also be a win for Democrats in that they would avoid the risk ofTrump appointing not only Kennedy’s successor but Ginsburg’s as well (should her health take a turn for the worse or should Trump be re-elected in 2020).

And cutting the court to seven would give the American public a respite, however brief and partial, from the constant political propaganda about how our voting choices might affect the court’s future composition. We have other issues to attend to. Cut the court.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north-central Florida.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
THE LATEST
COVID-19 and how residents are ignoring the self-quarantine

Some residents of Nevada ignore the call for voluntarily self-quarantining and social distancing. There are still a lot of people out in the community, and traffic on the roads is still substantial. If you make a quick trip to pick up essentials at the grocery store, you will see that stores are still being overrun by shoppers madly searching for the ever-elusive rolls of toilet paper and paper towels. Head into a big box hardware store to pick up repair parts, and shoppers fill the aisles who have no idea what social distancing means. Bored at home and seeking something productive to do, homeowners have decided to occupy their free time by tackling projects around the yard and house. Signs around the stores asking shoppers to maintain social distancing are largely ignored by many as they go about their business. Yes, you will see some residents wearing surgical face masks. You will also see some wearing homemade masks of cloth or windsocks pulled up and cover their face and nose. Some shoppers, as they navigate down crowded aisles, will move to keep at least six feet between them and other shoppers. Then there are those shoppers who crowd in on top of you as stand waiting to check out without any regard to the prominently places signs asking them to stay back at least six feet. For them and for others who are not heeding the request to stay at home and for social distancing, the COVID-19 virus is not a real threat.

By the time we notice we’re hungry, it may be too late

“As the top U.S. watermelon-producing state prepares for harvest, Reuters reports, “many of the workers needed to collect the crop are stuck in Mexico …. Without the workers, crops could rot in fields throughout the country,” starting in Florida and California where major harvests begin in April and May.

It’s not the zombie apocalypse we were promised

For years we have all watched the movies and read the books about a global pandemic that would herald the end of mankind as we know it. When the virus was first reported, I was alarmed and was very glad that the president at least stopped flights from China. What happened next still puzzles me.

California Lottery

No one matched all five numbers and the mega number in the Wednesday, March 11 drawing of the California Super Lotto. The next jackpot will be at least $10 million.