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Federal Issue: Court Reform

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has issued a report on the record of influence of Christian nationalism resulting from Trump Supreme Court and lower court appointments. These judicial nominations are moving the judicial system further from the will of the American people by threatening state/church separation, true religious freedom, reproductive rights, voting rights and civil rights. 

Adding a binding code of ethics, clear rules on Supreme Court justices recusing themselves, mandatory disclosure laws, plus adding more seats on the Supreme and lower courts will help to make our courts freer, fairer and meet the independent judicial needs of all Americans, including secular Americans. 

Which judicial reform bills does FFRF Action Fund support and what do they do?

 

Introduced by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, R.I., and by Rep. Hank Johnson, Ga.

Requires Supreme Court justices to adopt and follow a code of ethics, places transparency standards on gifts and travel, codifies recusal standards and requires the court to disclose lobbying and dark money interests before it. It seeks to restore public trust in the Supreme Court by bringing much-needed accountability and transparency to this institution. SCERT brings the Supreme Court into closer alignment with the rest of the federal judiciary with a mandated code of ethics; disclosure rules that are, at a minimum, the same as members of Congress; and brings much-needed transparency to lobbying efforts via the amicus system used to influence the Supreme Court.

S. 4188, introduced by  Senator Ed Markey, M.A., & HR 7647, introduced by Rep. Hank Johnson, Ga.

Adds four associate justices to the Supreme Court of the United States, bringing the total number of Supreme Court justices from 9 to 13. The number of justices may be changed, by Congress, without a constitutional amendment. The number of justices has changed seven times in American history. Historically, the number has been tied to the number of judicial circuits (justices each oversee one circuit). Now there are 13 circuits. There should be 13 justices. 

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H.R.4886, introduced by Rep. Hank Johnson, Ga.

Adds 203 new lower court judgeships across 47 judicial districts. Addresses the massive case backlog due to a shortage of federal judges in districts across the country, which is preventing Americans from having their day in court and their matters adjudicated. Justice delayed is justice denied. 

For decades, Congress and the Judicial Conference used a threshold of 400 case filings per judgeship when determining whether a judicial district needed additional judgeships. In 1993,