Republicans have not traditionally been fans of Franklin Roosevelt, but in statehouses across the country they are trying to emulate one of the Democratic president’s most notorious schemes: court-packing.
The latest effort is in Arizona, where the GOP-controlled legislature has passed a measure to increase the number of justices on the state’s Supreme Court to seven from its current five. Governor Doug Ducey, a Republican, must now decide whether to sign the bill, which has become enmeshed in negotiations over increased funding for the judiciary and raises for state judges. Republicans enacted similar legislation earlier this month in Georgia increasing the number of justices on the state Supreme Court to nine, from its current seven.
“It’s part of a larger trend that’s occurred over the last eight to 10 years,” said Bill Raftery, an analyst at the National Center for State Courts. Raftery has tracked efforts in Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Iowa to manipulate the number of justices on courts of last resort ostensibly for political gain. Not all of them involve bids to add justices—in Montana and Alabama, Republicans tried to reduce the number. And not all of them fall strictly along party lines. In Florida, Republicans in the Senate blocked legislation that was passed by Republicans in the House. In Michigan in 2008, unions were caught hatching a plan to reduce the size of the Supreme Court by removing a pair of Republican justices. The effort was blocked by the state supreme court.