U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey called for changes to the Supreme Court — including the addition of four more members to the nine-member court — during a stop in Boston’s Copley Square on Monday.
The Democrats also pushed for tougher ethics oversight following revelations of business transactions and travel involving Justice Clarence Thomas that Thomas did not disclose.
Warren said the current court is undercutting the nation’s democratic principles.
“They are captured by extremists who are more interested in advancing their own personal political views than following the rule of law, than following precedent,” she said. “And when there are severe ethical lapses, at least some justices seem to think there’s no accountability.”
Warren called for passage of a bill that would create a series of ethics laws aimed at limiting the actions of Supreme Court justices, including strengthening restrictions on judicial gifts and privately funded travel and requiring the justices to adhere to a code of conduct.
Markey said legislation to expand the court to 13 members would restore balance to a court he said is now beholden to “deep-pocketed, right-wing” interests.
“Our most fundamentally held freedoms are under siege and it will only get worse,” Markey said. “We must take action now to rebuild an expanded fair and ethical Supreme Court.”
The number of Supreme Court justices changed six times before settling on nine in 1869, according to the court’s website.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley said with recent decisions on abortion rights, voting rights and gun control measures, the Supreme Court is facing a “crisis of legitimacy.”
In recent weeks, news reports have focused on the purchase by a conservative donor of three properties belonging to Thomas and his family in a transaction worth more than $100,000 that Thomas never reported, according to the nonprofit investigative journalism organization ProPublica.
ProPublica previously revealed Thomas and his wife Ginni were gifted with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of annual vacations and trips by donor Harlan Crow for decades.
Warren, Markey and Pressley made their comments ahead of the launch of a 20-stop, nationwide bus tour by advocates who say they will make the case for judicial reform.