tv Discussion on Proposals to Change Federal Courts Structure CSPAN April 8, 2021 4:01pm-5:21pm EDT
health care. it is great. these people are heroic. they do things no one else wants to do. they need to get paid for it. arnie: $400 billion goes to things like that. we have an aging demographic. we do not have a lot of long health insurance policies. the only way you get coverage if you get ill and become an invalid, where you have to go? you have to get rid of all your assets and go on medicaid in order for you to be able to stay in a nursing home or home setting. that means the vast majority of people are going to end up spending every time they have to take care -- >> we take you live to a discussion of proposed changes to the american court structure. american constitution society for law and policy is hosting
this event. >> our constitution's founding failures when it comes to race and inequality in this country. like all things that matter in the lives of americans, the courts have a tremendous impact. with a now deeply conservative federal bench we face the growing proliferation of state laws that restrict access to the ballot box and seek to rollback reproductive rights. calls for reforming both the supreme court and lower courts have grown in number. many of the reform proposals are promising. we at acs want to make sure we left those up and have them thoroughly considered. we know something has to be done soon. but what is possible in the current political climate? we are grateful to have our esteemed panelist with us today to share their insight on this
question. we encourage you to follow acs on social media, including art ted -- twitter. you can also find us online at acslaw. org. it is my pleasure to introduce our moderator genta dairy -- jen. she is a senior editor for huffington post where she focused on courts and judicial nominations. previously reporting for roll call at on the texas legislature for gallery watch in austin texas. please welcome jen. jen: welcome to today's acs panel. i am jen bendery.
you can use the q&a function to send any questions during the panel. i will try to pick up some to go and save the rest for the end. finally, whatever this means, i am required to tell you, one hour of california cle credit is available for this call. email info with court reform in the subject line to receive your credit. if you are in a jurisdiction other than california pencil rules in that -- consult the rules in that state. i have no idea what this means.
cla materials will be shared with all participant in a follow-up email. let's move on to our panelist. congress that mondaire jones is a freshman democrat from new york. he represents -- he went to stanford and worked in the department of justice. and he worked to perform our criminal and legal system to make it more fair and equitable. then he went to harvard law and worked as a litigator in private practice. he wanted to work for the pro bono service investigating employment discrimination. he is a member of the house judiciary committee. he has the youngest member of the democratic house leadership team. next is chris king. he served in the white house for
nearly seven years as deputy counsel for president obama and special assistant to the president for legislative affairs. chris oversaw the selection, venting and confirmation of more than 220 of obama's judicial nominees. he said records -- said records -- set records. he helped spearhead the confirmation of supreme court justice sotomayor. and he worked with dick durbin as director of floor operations. chris is on the board of advisors for acs. next is leah litman, an assistant law professor at the michigan school of law where she teaches and writes constitutional law, federal postconviction review, and federal sentencing. she is one of the cohosts and creators of strict scrutiny, a podcast by the u.s. supreme court.
her writing has appeared in the new york times, the washington post, and other publications. leah graduated summa cum laude from the university of michigan law school. after law school, clerked for judge jeffrey sutton of the u.s. court of appeals and for justice anthony kennedy u.s. supreme court. leah maintains an active pro bono practice and serves on the board of academic devises of the american constitution society. finally, a strategic sit -- consultant for the leadership conference on human rights. nancy was a part of various lobbying efforts, including task forces on education reform, hate crime, affirmative action, and judicial reformation and the 1990's. nancy worked at common cause and women's equity action league and was the director of public policy and government relations at the american association university of women. she was chief lobbyist and
managed coordination of the equal rights amendment, women's vote project, and civil rights act. let's give all our panelists and awkward -- an awkward round of applause from our computer screen. [laughter] the primary questions facing this panel are what is next for court reform? what is possible to do? and help -- how can progressives affect change on this front? so congressman jones, i will start with you. there is some talk about you adding a bill in the house that would set term limits for supreme court justices can you talk about what is going on with this bill, if it is done, any idea might be introduced? mondaire: i appreciate the question and i'm grateful to be
here alongside so many incredible people have long admired talking about an issue of the utmost importance. that is saving our democracy through expanding the united states supreme court. i do think about this from the standpoint of our democracy, which is this baseline of standards that i think we all used to take for granted until recent years. due to the right wing takeover of the united states supreme court, we have seen our democracy under siege. we have seen it with citizens united. we have seen it with the shelby decision in 2013, which gutted the crown jewel of the voting rights act, which we are now working in earnest to revise through what well, i hope, pass at the john r lewis voting rights advancement act. i believe if we had not had that 2013 decision we would not have seen sp -- sb 202 in georgia in
law. this is a right-wing takeover that is and has been antidemocratic. we know that the vast majority of recent presidential elections have resulted in the popular vote going to democratic presidential candidates. we know that democratic senators represent 40 million more people than republican senators. and yet, we have seen this right-wing takeover of the supreme court. folks like myself and many advocates across the country want to do something about that. we want to save democracy itself from a supreme court majority that is hostile to democracy. i will not commit to a specific deadline by which legislation will be introduced, it is an ongoing conversation.
>> have you been able to find any republicans vaguely interested in doing something like this? or is this purely a democrat effort to make changes in the court? mondaire: it is a pro-democracy effort to make changes to the supreme court in the same way that changes have been made at least seven times prior to this point. in an environment where 77% of the american public supports the american rescue plan but not a single republican member of the house or senate voted for something as popular as that. the same for hr one. i do not expect republicans to do the right thing to save our democracy because i think they understand, quite clearly, that when we have a democracy with people eligible to vote and able to exercise that right to vote, they are put out of business nationally.
jen: can we talk a little bit about why you decided, as a freshman, to make supreme court performed your priority. that is not something you typically see with a freshman who comes into congress, making the supreme court one of their top priority issues. mondaire: this is personal for me. i am someone who is part of a community, for example, the lgbtq plus community who waits every two to see if we will have rights taken away or rights granted that we should have had from the beginning. of course, i am also an african-american in this country whose voting rights are increasingly under assault. i am in a minority of people who have, through antidemocratic efforts, outsized influence and control over our government. to add to what you asked earlier, when you think about the timing of this, it is the
first time in approximately 10 years that there is unified control of government by a party that wants people to be able to exercise the right to vote. so, the emergency is clear. that is precisely why i have shown leadership on this. jen: you do plan to introduce a bill related to this, you do just yes -- you just do not have details yet, right? mondaire: yes i am excited for that in the near future. jen: something you argue for, and chris, i know you guys have pushed for this too, you argue for adding four seats to the supreme court. why four? mondaire: more seats added to the supreme court is required to add a majority of justices who are committed to protecting our democracy. it is just a fact that the court is even more hostile to democracy than it was when it
gutted the voting rights act in 2013. this is not a partisan power grab in the way that mitch mcconnell and a few others have described it. it is an effort to get us back to the baseline standard i described earlier of people being allowed to exercise their constitutional right to vote. ", -- and of course, if you ask the average american, they would tell you that they want all lgbtq people to be treated equally under the law, we want women to be able to make health care decisions without the right to do so being infringed upon, we want folks to be able to vote safely in the midst of a once in a century pandemic, and so on. but we have six people now, on the supreme court, who are hostile to that. they are working, and have been working in earnest, to undermine those rights and the foundation
of our society. chris: it is worth remembering, as representative jones said, congress has changed the supreme court seven times before. the last time congress changed the sides of the supreme court, it did so to make sure the number of seats matched the number of circuits in the country. now, certainly, supreme court justices are not like they used to be, but there are 13 justices and 13 circuits right now. there is a historical parallel why 13 would make sense right now. jen: ok chris. why do you think now is the time to push for reforms like this? is demand justice pushing for anything different then congressman jones is pushing for are you echoing each other? chris: first and foremost, we
are in lockstep with congressman jones in calling for four seats to be added. that's the first reform that has to happen. in addition, we think there should be a binding code of ethics for the supreme court. it is the only court in the entire country that does not have one. we think that term limits for supreme court justices should be seriously. considered to help depoliticize the process but first, we need to add seeds to restore balance to a court that has become so out of touch and so tilted towards these a, corporate interests. the reason to do this now as we have an opportunity where democrats control the house, the senate, the white house. senator schumer has said, in a broader context, this is an opportunity, maybe twice in a century, where we can have big, find a middle change in our country. that is why we have to have this fight now. we have to start pushing right away. jen: this question is for you chris and for you congressman jones.
let's talk about the reality of this congress. you have at least two democratic senators already insisting they will not make any changes to the filibuster, without changes to the filibuster in the senate, you cannot have legislation for these kinds of reforms. where do you go from there when that is the baseline of this otherwise democrat one -- run government? chris: just a few days ago senator manchin was talking about a talking filibuster which does represent a reform to that jim crow relic. i remain optimistic. i remain optimistic that people like joe mansion and senator sinema, who i would add is also a member of the lgbtq community had a history major, -- and a history major, do not want to be senators who stand in the way of equality. there are so many other things
we just take for granted. and in some cases, are still fighting for, unfortunately, in a civilized society. i understand that when people run for office they strongly prefer to be in the majority. we will not have a democratic majority if we do not pass in a bill one, the senate counterpart to hr one. we have a republican party that is increasingly unhinged when it comes to what it would do to stay in power. they have outsized control over the number of state governments that will allow them to draw the maps in many places in this country and continue to draw districts that will elect people like marjorie taylor greene and other fringe members of that party. such that they will continue to win the civil war within the republican caucus. i think about the fact that to
third -- two thirds of my colleagues in the house republican party voted to overturn their election -- the election just hours after the attack at capitol. if we had redistricting we would get better people. chris: i am not naive about the political realities here. but i also think it is a mistake to start with what you think is currently politically possible in the moment and work backwards, as an advocate,, you study an issue, you see a supreme court so out of balance. it is losing its legitimacy. more and more americans think the supreme court bases decisions on politics based -- not law. you see a problem and have to find a solution.
that solution is legislation to add more seats to the supreme court. we have to start somewhere. i remember being so excited when congressman jones, then a candidate year ago, wrote a piece in slate talking about why we need to expand the supreme court. now he is committing to taking the next step in introducing the legislation. then all of us are going to have to work. we are going to have to push. we are going to have to call her congressman. we're going to have to call her senators. we are going to have to get cosponsors on the bill to get it through. once we get it through the house, pick and talk about the senate and whether or not we have the votes. but if we start with the premise, that we can only start with what joe mansion and kyrsten sinema will agree to, we will never achieve the change necessary to save our democracy. i think that we have two be realistic about the work that has to be done, but we have to start with the steps we are
taking and i am so glad to have someone like congressman jones leading the site. nancy: let me say, first of all thank you so much congressman jones. it is an important bill. it makes a lot of sense. but as we all know, it is an uphill battle. that does not mean we should not fight it, but it does mean that without eliminating the filibuster, we cannot succeed. we cannot succeed in voting, in climate james, -- in climate change, in guns, and many other issues. what happens to -- what has to happen on judicial nominations is to build a greater grassroots network. so that progressives across the
country understand what is at stake and why it is important. we can try now, but we have to look at essex reform -- ethics reform, and also the lower courts. i will stop there. we also have the imperative of the nominations and making sure that trumps -- trump's 234 do not stand by themselves. president biden is on his way. he has nominated a diverse group
in background and experience and race and ethnicity. we have to build this movement in order to make it happen. leah: congressman jones mentioned the importance of independent districting commissions. also, to prevent districts from electing french candidates -- fringe candidates. that is important to the health of our democracy. it is also true that independent districting commissions are there because of the u.s. supreme court. an opinion by ruth bader ginsburg upheld states authority to create independent districting commissions. professor doyle feldman at harvard wrote an op-ed in bloomberg saying that senate bill one could very well be
invalidated by the current supreme court. so, if you care about making our elections more democratic, making our country more democratic, which i think is the first and foremost concern we should be focused on, that has to include some consideration of what you are going to do about the court, given the likelihood this court could invalidate congressional efforts to prevent -- protect voting rights. congressman jones: it was a few months ago, shortly after i had been elected to congress in the general, that i made a call to someone leading on hr one and said, there is commission from a few years ago that gives me great pause with respect to what
the supreme court will do. how can we limit the jurisdiction of the supreme court in hr one, that is what my office work to do. i am proud of what we were able to get in there in terms of language, but it is no substitute for getting a majority on the supreme court. a majority that cares about preserving our democracy. jen: one of the questions i have come in asks, any comments on justice breyer's lecture at scalia law where he expressed hesitation on expansion of the court. he says they need to "think long and hard about the risks of doing this." does he have a point? nancy: i was surprised to wait in -- wait in -- wade
--weighed in on something as political as the court. his statements show us just how much work we have to do in convincing the american people of the inequities. the inequities are shown in what congressman jones talked about. democrats represent 40 million more people. chris talked about the imperative found years ago of evening the courts with the circuit court. i was surprised by it. i was surprised by his lack of evidence -- evidence knowledge of history. so yes, i am very surprised.
jen: did any other panelist think he had a good point there? do you think he is missing the point? congressman jones: it was not rooted in anyone's experience. i looked around, i did a double take. i did not understand why use weighing in on the prerogative -- why he was weighing in on the prerogative of the legislature. i wish she would stop talking about that and stick to actually adjudicating cases. chris: i don't know what else you would say. he has got to be hearing these cases. i understand he has got to say what he is got to say. but i also think that even he knows better. the court is already so hyper politicized.
mitch mcconnell pushing through brett kavanaugh and moving through justice merit less than a week before investing day -- election day, that is what has over politicized our court. that is why people are losing confidence in our courts and think it makes decisions based on politics rather than law, because of what republicans have done, not because of the conversation we are having about restoring balance under legitimacy. he knows better. he has seen it all. i just think he says what he thinks he needs to say. hopefully this is the precursor to the announcement we are all hoping stephen breyer will make. if that happens, what he said is fine with me. leah: yikes. justice breyer has to work at
pre-day -- at work every day and work at the court. if he was truly convinced the court was irredeemable, it would be hard for him to go to work. if that is what he needs to tell himself, that is fine. but if the public believes the court is a political, then it represents a real failure of media and progressive organizers to portray with the court is doing. if that is the challenge he is inviting, we should be up to it. there is also a way you can read his remarks, as some ways, as indications to conservative colleagues do not do all of the crazy things that many of us think are bound to happen. he is saying, don't be the conservative court some people are warning about that expecting you to be. jen: leah, i want to ask you a question. you have written about the
importance of adding seats to the lower courts which do not get as much attention as the supreme court. congress recommended last month that we create 79 more permanent judges across the country. the last time congress passed a comprehensive bill to expand the number of seats of districts appeal courts was in the 1990's i have already seen republicans and democrats in congress to support doing something here. it does where you think progressive political energy should be directed now instead of the supreme court? leah: progressives can and should walk and chew gum. what it would be a mistake to overlook lower courts. the supreme court hears 60 to 80 cases in a given year. the court of appeals heard something like 50,000 cases last year. most courses -- most cases will be resolved in the court of appeals. currently the courts are not
representative of the american people. they have -- there have only been eight black women who have served as court of appeals judges. biden's last nominees increased the number by 106%, something like -- something like 3% on public defenders have served as civil rights lawyers. these are backgrounds we need represented on the federal court. your personal ground informs how you interpret the law. people who of represented corporate interest in prosecution are more likely to root for employers. they are more likely to sentence criminal defendants to more time. we need to make the lower federal courts representative of the people, not to mention the increase in caseloads and cases
have increased over the last 30 years but judges have not. nancy: let me say, if i may, at -- that the fact of the matter is that we ought to be pushing for supreme court reform, that is the only way it is going to happen. we ought to be looking at expanding lower courts. it is a bipartisan issue. but right now we have a crisis. the crisis is that 30% of the circuit courts are trump courts. 25% of the district court's. there is an imperative to work, all of us, to get those judges that biden's nominating confirmed.
there are judges going on senior status, some that were appointed by clinton and obama. that will serve us well in getting results. the right has been single-minded through the federalist society 2pac the courts -- 2pac -- to pack the courts. we have to fight back. if progressives don't it is to their peril. chris: --congressman jones: someone commenting in the chat says he does not want democratic courts. this is not a partisan power grab. you want people to be treated equally under the law. you want people to exercise the right to vote. my guy, has georgia not
clarified the status of poor people? i am really committed to making sure that this is described accurately at -- as something essential to having a democracy moving forward. the supreme court majority is more conservative than the one that decided shall be in 2013. we need to make sure it the supreme court is concerned about bedrock principles that many of us of taken for granted. i hope it doesn't take something truly terrible to get people to wake up. but my prediction as -- is that there will be legislation already introduced by the time that happen so we can continue to rally around it.
jen: bill added a comment asking wouldn't adding judges at the appellant and trial court levels gain more traction? you see the argument for doing that, even if you do not agree with it? congressman jones: no. shame on congress if we cannot introduce multiple bills at the same time. i am heartened to see my judiciary committee colleagues on the other of the i'll talk about the need to expand lower courts, as professor litman mentioned, since about 1990, we have seen a 38 percent uptick in district court caseloads. appellate filings have increased by 40% since 1990, the last time
we expanded lower courts. as more recent clerk myself, i'd is a seventh district of new york, i know how overworked those judges are. additionally, in addition to the practicality of needing more people to adjudicate, we have the opportunity to have a judiciary that reflects the lived experiences of what the speaker calls "the beautiful diversity of the united states of america." leveraging those lived experiences so people understand how the law operates in people's lives as critical to doing one's job better on the bench. and of course, we can also talk about advocating to advance the cause of supreme court expansion, which continues to be a necessity.
we do not have the luxury of waiting when it comes to this. in fact, i would submit we have waited way too long. chris: i will also say, congressman jones is vice president of the court subcommittee, they already how to committee about lower court expansion in february. this is something on their radar and continuing. one of the questions is not only whether it is going to happen, but to what scope is it going to happen? jane, you mentioned the administrative office of the courts, headed by john roberts, has asked for 70 to 90 judges to be created. that is a good start, but it has to be the baseline. as congressman joan said, caseloads have exploded over the last 30 years. what john roberts is proposing here would be 79 new judges is only a fraction of what is really necessary. during the carter
administration, carved grass -- congress expanded the courts a third. i think we need a bigger, more robust expansion of the lower courts to really get to this administration of justice. if you do not have your court case heard for years, that has a big impact, not only on criminal justice, but on civil justice. these are conversations that absolutely have to be happening at the same time we are having now and supreme court reform. nancy: and there has been, as you said, bipartisan support for expanding the courts. of course, todd young, a republican in indiana, introduced a bill in 116 two at 65. it is not enough -- to add 65. it is not enough even darrell issa introduced a bill.
i think we can pursue all three points, suprem court, lower court, and get these biden judges confirmed so that we can get rid of the trump saying on the -- the trump stain on the judiciary. leah: it is also useful to think about how different types of reform relates to lower court reform. for example, hr one and sb one would make partisan gerrymandering claims potentially unrecognizable in federal court. that would create an entirely new set of claims people would be literate -- litigating in the federal court. we will need new judges to hear claims, given that courts are already overwhelmed. similarly, we are thinking about maybe abolishing or modifying qualified immunity.
those are again going to be new and different claims that we will need more federal judges to be on hand to actually adjudicate. or, you can sing about this in terms of the criminal justice crisis created by coronavirus, where you have people languishing in jail waiting for bail, being exposed to coronavirus, because federal courts are too overwhelmed to see their cases. that is not sustainable. that is not what we should be accepting in our current system. congressman jones: we passed the fair act. you are going to see the proliferation of litigation. we should not have forced arbitration agreements in this country. that too is another example is -- of why we need to increase the exam -- the number of lower court judges. a question from steve --a
question from steve --jen: a question from steve. how do we get past the view that this is only a partisan grab? congressman jones: if we passed senate bill one, we will allow people to vote in this country. that means that the gop will be out of business nationally. you will not see republican majorities. i do not anticipate that when this happens, you will see republicans do the same thing. they will not have the opportunity to do so. i am thinking about how john paul stevens and others were appointed by republican presidents and were independent-minded and pro-democracy in reasonable ways. this is not just about democrat
judges and republicans getting their judges. this is about making sure people who are not partisan hacks in the way of brett kavanaugh, they are acquainted to the highest court in the land. the fact that the american public does not have faith in the supreme court, because of its retrograde movements, is untenable for democracy. chris: what we are trying to do here is not a partisan power grab as much is restore balance to the court to ensure fair elections and ensure voting rights. look, i think congressman jones is perhaps right on the politics of what happens. but, even the broader question that came up in the q&a about what happens next, given, aren't
we on the road to a 200 membered supreme court? i think we are living in the worst-case scenario right now, where we have a supreme court so unbalanced, so tilted towards partisan and corporate interests that we have to do something to restore balance. i actually think that if you are able to expand the supreme court and add in term limits, you have a longer-term, potentially -- content -- potential de-politicization, if every single president was able to nominate and have confirmed two justices in his or her term, then you do not need to add seats when you take control, you just need to win the next election. it would be more representative of where the country is as a whole. over time, you can add stability, but it all starts with adding four seats. the idea of term limits, i
think, and there is bipartisan support for the idea that you can have term limits for supreme court justices, have justices move on to senior status. that will be determined, though, by the supreme court. i think this partisan court is not likely to roll in any way that would diminish its own power. so you have to add four seeds to enhance democracy. then we can determine whether or not other forms, such as term limits, might be horrible. jen: somebody is asking how can term limits for supreme court justices be reconciled with article three life tenure? leah: federal judges cannot be removed as -- at will but it does not actually mean they get
to serve for life. they get to serve for the term of their appointment. the term of their apartment could be decided by congress before their appointment begins. you could still, consistent with the constitution, have federal judges serving for good behavior the term they are appointed if congress adds statutes or there was a constitutional amendment determining the term of a supreme court appointment. it is just we call that language, in colloquial terms, life tenure. but that is not actually what the constitution says. jen: ok. i have a question for you, nancy. you've worked on issues like this through a number of congress is in administrations. what have you learned from working on this over the years? what you say to the reality that even biden himself has said he is not fan of court packing, and
how you work with an administration when this is what the commander-in-chief is saying? nancy: let me say, and you are probably heard this, i started as a field organizer. that is where i come from. things do not happen. change does not happen unless there is a grassroots push for it. that is why i have said, several times, that we have to build the will among progressives. what we saw with amy coney barrett was a bigger outpouring than i have ever seen for -- against any supreme court nomination.
cavanaugh was certainly big, but this was massive. i think we have an opportunity to build on it. to build on the sentiment that was expressed in the fall against bear it. --barret. progressives have to be hounding the white house and senators and letting them know that these are important issues, court reform. in terms of what we know, about the filibuster, that is where we are now. but with a mass movement, i truly believe that we can actually get it done. i have worked on many issues. i will tell you, there is a push
-- if there is a push from the field, from the constituents, it does not happen -- unless there is a push from the field, from the constituents, it does not happen. i did talk about several administrations, but i hope that answers your question. jen: let's talk about the timeframe. we will have a democrat-controlled government for two years at a minimum. it feels like you have to operate within that mindset if you're trying to push something through because the senate or house could flip in 2022. do you guys think two years is enough time to make a big push on these issues and expect to get something done? or do you think that it is worth -- that two years is not enough time to build grassroots energy to push these things at once? nancy: i think there is unique opportunity for the paradox of
the close congress. the house and senate are unfortunately looking very very much alike in terms of close margins. closing -- pelosi i think it is 212 to 219. that is very close. obviously, it is 60/50 in the senate. this is a unique opportunity to pressure those two members. this is a -- an important opportunity to stress what we need court reform. i have worked on civil rights bills. i have worked on many. i have led lobbying efforts. it happens in one congress, but
if you do not do it -- it rarely happens in one congress, but if you do not do it, if you do not start for a positive viewpoint, it does not get done. it is tough, but not unprecedented. jen: another question from an attendee. do you think term limits will become politicized? is this a concern any of you have thought about or discussed when you thought about pushing forward term limit that the supreme court? leah: it is something i have thought about. but it is also a way of making them more democratic. if you actually want people to have a say about which presidents are selecting justices, rather than leaving it up to fate, like when it justices sides -- decides to retire, or when they happen to get ill, it may be more
political, in the sense that we are having actual public conversations. but that is another way of letting the people decide, letting the people have a conversation and a say in two who they want selected. chris: i think the vacancies are already political. they are already part of the presidential -- i think -- the presidential election. part of the reason donald trump one in 2016 was one on this -- ran on the supreme court. when we look at the broader conversation, joe biden one voters --won voters who said this supreme court was important to them. this whole conversation and mobilization around the courts is already moving in a progressive direction, which is why i think that, you say we have two years, sort of a year and change at this point, time is ticking, but i do think it is enough time.
i think the supreme court will continue to handed down antidemocratic, anti-civil rights, anti-civil rights, and human rights opinions. this will unfortunately add fuel to the debate about the need to expand the courts. i think we have enough time to get something done. jen: anyone else? another question from a very frustrated man named michael. this longtime regressive lawyer thinks discussion is a waste of time. -- progressive lawyer thinks discussion is a waste of time. the filibuster will not be eliminated this term. what do you say to the michael's
of the world to -- who do not think this can be done at this time? congressman jones: we have to make sure we are pressing people on the fence about the filibuster, or who need more encouragement to get where they need to be, so we can have a democracy, so we can secure voting rights for everybody in this country, so we can save us from climate catastrophe. we face overlapping crises. i do not want to get on the stump, but it would be an advocate should of -- but it would be an advocate in a by role -- an abdication of my role to not push for reforming the filibuster just because we reached the conclusion that joe mansion and kyrsten sinema will never do the right thing. that is not how progress is obtained. that is not how legislation
works. i would encourage my friend michael to keep the faith. nancy: and i would encourage michael, i totally agree with the congressman, but i would encourage michael to help. get in the fray. help with confirming these judges. that -- join the progressive bandwagon. help on all three fronts. but, if you are discouraged and feel like you cannot help on the supreme court or lower courts, at least get more biden judges on the court. leah: i would add that it is a little strange to have these abstract questions about whether we want the filibuster or not. to me, that issue is so deeply connected to what you want to get done. in order to think about
modifying the filibuster, we have to think about what is the possible legislation we might want to enact? is it possible to get that through with the filibuster? if not, that is a reason to potentially modify the filibuster. you asked is whether two years is enough time. it is going to be because we are putting in the work and spending the energy convincing people that these are things worth fighting for. we are saying, if you care about voting rights, you need to think about the courts. if you care about criminal justice reform, that too, will involve doing something about the courts. part of what we are trying to do is doing the organizing and doing the kind of convincing that is part of movement building. that is how i tell myself what i am doing is worth the time. [laughter]
jen: here's a question i have had some alleles also throughout their. -- here is a question i have had and also someone else through that out there. there are so many federal just is that just do not get attention. it is usually the supreme court that is very flashy and gets the headline. but there are hundreds and hundreds of federal judges. if you look at trump's record of judicial nominations, there are objectively some people on the federal bench from his appointment process that should not be there. that is a whole other conversation to talk about removing judges. that is extremely unlikely and rare. but, have you -- have any of you in your conversations with progressive activists, academic, thought about a serious push on the idea of term limits on other federal court seats? leah: i personally have not heard much --
chris: i think it depends on the problem you're trying to solve. there are only nine supreme court judges. taken plant -- they can plan their retirement to be replaced by someone with similar ideological views. they are serving longer than intended. that is why the conversation makes more sense centered around the supreme court. there are some people talking about it on the lower courts as well. but i do not think the problem with the same. the focus is not quite there. the biggest problem in the lower courts is the lack of judges. that is why we are talking about expanding the lower courts.
jen: anyone else? make a case for lower court judges not being there forever? ok. here's the question i have. as a reporter who reports on the courts and judicial nominations, i really want to make it interesting to people. and it is not a sexy subject on its own right, i am sorry to say. i am constantly thinking of ways to make judicial nominees interesting and important. a long time ago, i think it was -- went on david letterman decades ago and letterman asked him what is one piece of advice would be to aspiring journalists dan rather. -- dan rather said the goal of a journalist is to take something important and make it interesting, not to take something interesting and make
it important. i think about that when i write about judicial nominations. it is important, but not as flashy as many other subjects. you work in fields connected to the courts and the way our courts function. how do you approach the subject in terms of making people care about what our courts are doing and why they are important and why they should get involved? it is not something people are going to readily be excited about or understand, necessarily people -- necessarily. and yet, there are things all the time disenfranchising people that are not fair about the system. i think people are disconnected from what is going on with courts. do you have a rule of thumb you used to make people pay attention? how do you guys take this important thing and make it interesting?
nancy: we have tried to take different court decisions and the damage they are doing to progressives, to make them understand the importance of the court. i still think there is an opportunity now that we really have not had before, because of trump taking over the court. it is going to become more and more apparent as time goes on. that is certainly one thing, and i think we have to keep yielding on what happened this fall in terms of the outrageousness of barrett's nomination. >> entire national groups are
devoted to saving the planet, a women's right to choose -- a woman's right to choose, lgbtq rights, the right to not be discriminated against, racial justice and other civil rights champion by organizations like the naacp. all of those things are in peril if we don't have expansion of the supreme court of the united states. the connection is not difficult to make. it is intuitive. i think we need to do -- i say we, generally, just do a better job of messaging that to people. it should not take the supreme court overturning roe v. wade to get people to finally understand what this court has the votes to
do. we should be rallying support around court expansion well before then. i just feel that we can't do it quickly enough. that is why we have to introduce this legislation and make sure we are all speaking out and not fighting for ourselves -- fighting among ourselves over something we know to be necessary. >> imagine i am a disaffected voter, sitting at my house, watching "the simpsons," drinking beer, and someone is talking about the courts and i'm like, whatever, but i am actually someone who is going to be affected by the courts. what do you say to someone to get them to go, i didn't know that? or do you not talk about this for fun? rep. jones: i do talk about it for fun. it is my job now.
i would ask you about your life. why are you disaffected? because government has failed you, or you feel government has failed you, so you're likely to produce any number of reasons you feel that way directly related to policy that are now in danger by a rogue, hyper-partisan conservative majority on the supreme court. you have a supreme court that would stand in the way of the proactive, which we just passed in the house and senate. maybe you want to get married, but the supreme court has either overturned marriage equality or is imminently going to do so. maybe you have children and want to see them have a livable future, but are not going to secure that for them in the
absence of a supreme court that would uphold clement legislation and epa regulations. but that requires having conversations with people and not talking about them, so to speak, and we need to do more of that as the democratic party. jen: nancy, do you have elevator conversations where you can quickly get people to pay attention? chris: i cannot do it as eloquently as congressman jones does, but it is about meeting people where they are. like, the courts are such a lofty institution, i am not a lawyer, i don't understand it. people have that -- people don't have that same sense like, i'm not a doctor, so i don't care about the affordable care act. there is something about the courts seeming out of touch, out
of reach. jen: it sounds boring. cat: like -- chris: like, what is it people care about? every issue folks care about is going to be decided by the courts. we talk about the filibuster, and i think that is a useful parallel in a different regard. we faced a lot of obstruction during the obama administration by republican filibusters, but trying to explain to people what a filibuster was or why you need 60 votes in the senate or why you could not get things done was almost impossible. but now we are too far from getting rid of the filibuster, but we have come a long way. we are in april, and the republicans about filibuster to something yet, but we are getting there. people who care about climate change, economic justice, police reform, they understand filibuster reform is going to be necessary to enact that change.
they also understand the courts are going to be necessary to uphold that change at the end of the day, and it does that same kind of activism where you are not saying you need to care about the courts, we are asking people, what do you care about, and let me explain that issue. nancy: i honestly think we have not fought sufficiently against the bed decisions that have -- the bad decisions that have come down. i don't think that broadly enough, how we have talked about choice, voting rights, health care. health care does get people upset. choice gets -- is high on progressives. climate change is something that cuts across, that is much more of a bipartisan issue now.
not with leaders, but with some of the evangelicals, and republicans. so, i think we have not done as good a job as we should in highlighting cases. and as i said, we have the opportunity now, unfortunately, because of trump and mcconnell and the federalist society, successful effort impacting the court. jen: we have another question. i don't want to get too into the weeds, but these are things you can address. how about agreeing to split the ninth circuit in exchange for lower court expansion? i am a progressive, but the ninth circuit is a horror show in terms of size. i think that republicans have proposed doing this, because the
ninth circuit is considered a liberal bastion. do you guys think that if you are trying to look for ways to build bipartisan support on, say, expanding lower court, do you think that kind of trade-off is worth it, to break apart the ninth circuit, which i know some republicans really want? >> yes, if that is what it would take to increase the number of lower court judges by the hundreds, then absolutely, it is worth breaking up the ninth circuit. one of the main obstacles to breaking up the ninth circuit, which currently covers california, washington, idaho, nevada, montana, it is administered of lee difficult because california -- administratively difficult because california is at the center and is the biggest. but if that is the only obstacle to getting bipartisan support in a filibuster-prove majority and expanding the court of appeals, by all means it is worth it. i am not convinced that if you
agreed to break up the ninth circuit, that you are going to break the 60 vote threshold in the senate and bipartisan support in the house, but yes, that would be very worthwhile. jen: i think i remember former senator jeff flake had a bill regularly, maybe even john mccain had a bill to break apart that court. you guys probably know more about this than me, but i do not remember that being proposed in exchange for something else. is that something you guys know of that democrats have thought about or have been open to doing in the past? rep. jones: it has not come up in the courts of -- in the court subcommittee as something that would be a precondition for lower court expansion. jen: can you talk about some ideas that may have come up for things that could be trade-offs or however you want to call it? things that would bring some republicans over into this camp of wanting to expand the lower
courts. are there things you have seen or talked about with republicans or any of you have heard from republicans that they would you willing to do -- would be willing to do to move the whole thing forward? rep. jones: there has not been the introduction of a lower court expansion bill in the house, where democrats do have the majority. i do not want to get ahead of ourselves and talk about trade-offs where none, as of now, need to be made. jen: i mean prior to the year. this has been ongoing for a while, at least for the ninth circuit. maybe nancy, you have watched this for a while. i feel like i have seen bills for years to break up the ninth circuit, typically from republican senators, so i am not sure -- it just seems to go nowhere. is that something that is a viable, in your opinion, something that is an idea for ways to actually forward with a bipartisan broader bill?
nancy: i don't really think so. let me say that they, the republicans, have been introducing bills like that, particularly when there is a republican president. i remember when bush was president, and i don't know if chris remembers this, that they tried to push, and it was constructed so unfairly -- it wasn't, let's expand and here is the trade-off. it was very one-sided. allowing bush to appoint all those judges. rightfully, progressives and democrats opposed it. while i say it is a bipartisan issue, it would have to be worked out, especially now that
we have a democrat as president. jen: ok. i will ask one last question because we are almost out of time. anonymous attendee says that he or she listened carefully to and was unpersuaded by's options about representatives mansion and sinema. i suppose my question i will build from that, congressman and the rest of you, do you think there needs to be a co-occurring push on filibuster reform at the same time as pushing for these court reforms, or do you guys feel like that is separate and not really the goal, people pushing for court reforms? rep. jones: i suppose i will start.
we need to be pushing to repeal the filibuster, and at a minimum, we should be performing as such that it is not an obstacle to the legislation that the democratic majority in the house has already met. the equality act, universal background checks, the george floyd justice and policing act. -- justice in policing act. you name it. it is not something that is going to happen overnight. it is not something that is going to happen absent pressure from the public, including the anonymous author of that comment. we have to make sure we mobilize. my understanding is there are some folks who are feeling the pressure with respect to their vote to not overturn the ruling of the parliamentarian in the senate on the question of the $15 an hour minimum wage. we have to keep the pressure on and make sure people know how tough these policies are.
of course, we have to make sure that who still need to be persuaded understand that there will be no good-faith faith engagement by this republican party. not the party of donald trump on any of the questions that matter . the questions are of great import to society, including democracy itself, when it comes to the for the people act. let's keep the pressure on. i do think that is a separate discussion from weatherby need to expand the size of the supreme court -- whether we need to expand the size of the supreme court, and we can do both things at the same time. i see that as a member who had staff devoted to any number of issues. nancy: in terms of the filibuster, i believe that if republicans show and continue to show in the senate the same kind of entrenchment that they showed
on the covid bill or on the latest $1.9 trillion covid bill, and on these issues, i think that there will be, possibly, a greater willingness to streamline it, change it. what i am hearing manchin saying, and this is my interpretation, and i have worked with the senator, is he does not want to do it, it is bad, he wants bipartisanship, but i honestly think that if they are as egregious as i think they will be -- i mean, mitch mcconnell, when obama became president, the first thing he said was, we will make sure he does not succeed. that was his first speech on the floor. he is acting like that now.
it is the same kind of obstruction i believe, in the next two years, even manchin will be amenable to some kind of change. chris: i think there is some attention put on senator sinema and manchin. we've got to put in the hard work. we've got to go from no bills to a bill that passes the house, one in the senate. it is going to take a lot of work. for folks looking for what the next step is, i self-serving lead recommend you go to demandjustice.org. we are going to have an organizing call on saturday the 17th at 3:00 p.m. the congressman is smiling because he knows he is going to be there. we are going to start putting in
the work to go member to member, senator to senator, building this movement. when we have a movement, a majority of the house, 48 senators in the senate, then let's start with coming up with a strategy to get senator sinema and manchin on board. but it starts with telling your neighbor, calling your senator and getting it done. demandjustice.org. there is a link to join us at 3:10 p.m. eastern on saturday at 7:00. jen: what is the case to make that court reform is part of infrastructure? chris: bridge to the future! jen: you couldn't win on this one at this point. we are out of time. thank you for this wonderful panel. back to you, russ. >> that was a wonderful
conversation. i want to congratulate you. it was inspiring in a number of ways. i love kris's discussion about solidifying your base of support and then worry about the others later. with john mccain and i, it took eight years. it was just two guys in a group. we were a 501(c)(3). we do not take sides on this. that does not mean i can't listen to people being very creative and exciting in their thinking. thank you, and jen, thank you for a wonderful job of moderating this. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2021] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] >> c-span is your unfiltered
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