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Cicilline backs bill to add 4 Supreme Court justices

‘Americans’ faith in the court is at an all time low,’ the Rhode Island Democrat says. ‘To restore trust, we need to rebalance the court.’

US Representative David N. Cicilline, a Rhode Island Democrat.JUSTIN T. GELLERSON/NYT

PROVIDENCE — US Representative David N. Cicilline has signed onto a bill that would add four justices to the US Supreme Court.

The Rhode Island Democrat is one of five legislators who have added their names to the Judiciary Act of 2021 following news that a draft US Supreme Court opinion would overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. The bill now has 55 cosponsors.

In December, US Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, came out in favor of adding justices to the high court. And in April 2021, US Senator Edward J. Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, announced that he was introducing the bill that would increase the number of Supreme Court justices from nine to 13.


But Cicilline is the first member of the Rhode Island delegation to get behind the proposal.

“Americans’ faith in the court is at an all time low, and we need to do all we can to restore it,” Cicilline said in a statement Thursday. “This loss of trust didn’t happen overnight but has grown out of a increasingly partisan confirmation process that started with Mitch McConnell refusing to give Merrick Garland a hearing and a vote, extends to the clear conflict of interest posed by Ginni Thomas’s work and advocacy, and includes this leak and extremist draft opinion.”

“To restore trust, we need to rebalance the court,” he said. “The Judiciary Act would also help meet the increased workload of the court, and institute a bench that reflects the 13 circuits — a practical solution to increase efficiency and promote justice.”

The proposal would mark the first change in the makeup of the Supreme Court in about 150 years. Republicans decry the plan as “court packing” and reference President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s failed 1937 attempt to add more justices to the court following a series of decisions that struck down parts of Roosevelt’s New Deal.


Cicilline, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, also called for passage of the 21st Century Courts Act, legislation championed by US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a fellow Rhode Island Democrat. That bill would require the US Supreme Court to develop an ethics code for justices after seeking comments from experts and the public, and it would raise recusal standards where judges and justices have conflicts of interest.

Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at edward.fitzpatrick@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @FitzProv.