Why Eight Justices on the Supreme Court is the Magic Number

Since Justice Scalias passing his empty seat has become a political football used by both presidential campaigns to score points. Clinton insists that the continued vacancy is proof that Republicans put party over country and the only way to fix the gridlock is with a Democrat controlled house and senate. The same empty seat also gives Trump his strongest argument for convincing uneasy conservatives that they must hold their nose and vote for him because he has so emphatically promised to nominate true conservatives to the court to fill the vacancy.

At least until after the election the seat will remain unfilled and that is not a bad thing, in fact it should stay that way. Despite what the Obama may say the senate is under no obligation to nominate a successor, EVER. The constitution does not stipulate the number of justices that should be on the court so it could be four… or fifty. Neither of those extremes would be a good idea however but my point is that legally speaking it could be done. Nine Supreme Court justices is simply an arbitrary number that politicians settled on, nothing more. There is certainly no reason to increase the number of justices because they can only hear one case at a time anyways but what about decreasing the number of justices to eight?

Justice Scalia was a legal genius and he is responsible for some of the greatest legal opinions of the last fifty years, his voice was not noise but by reducing the number of voices on the court the rulings would be clearer, there would be fewer concurring and dissenting opinions creating clearer legal precedents streamlining legal proceedings in lower courts and mitigating the issue posed by rogue district courts because it would prove to be more difficult for such a court to hand down a ruling that goes against the legal current because it would be harder to find legal support for such rulings.

There is also something to be said about the number eight specifically because it is an even number. Part of the reason that nine was settled on was because it is an odd number making ties rare allowing the court the ability to rule decisively. This has had the unforeseen effect of fostering a reliance on the court to decisively resolve major national issues so the other branches don’t have to come to a compromise: it has allowed political laziness. Many of the most important cases in recent memory have been decided with single votes which is hardly a legal consensus. If the court had come to tie votes instead then the rulings of the lower courts would have been left to stand likely creating inconsistencies across the country which would have forced our elected officials to actually do their jobs to solve the contradictions. After all isn’t it better to have major decisions made by elected officials who can be held accountable every two to four years instead of having the decisions made by people who were appointed long ago and serve for life? A Supreme Court with only eight justices might just be what our clogged political system needs.