How many seats would make for a good Supreme Court of the United States? First, a bit of history. The Constitution established the Supreme Court but left it to Congress to decide how many justices should make up the court. The Judiciary Act of 1789 set the number at six. In 1807, Congress increased the number of justices to seven. In 1869, Congress raised the number of justices to nine, where it has stood ever since.
But lately, we’ve heard a call to “pack” the court with additional seats. But to keep this from being a partisan issue, let’s ask ourselves what would be the best thing to do for the country? Some say that all Americans need representation. A recent Washington Post column lamented that President Trump’s nomination of conservative Amy Coney Barrett effectively stole a seat that would otherwise have been filled by the type of person Joe Biden pledged to appoint, a liberal black woman. During a presidential primary debate, Biden said, “I’m looking forward to making sure there’s a Black woman on the Supreme Court to make sure we in fact get everyone represented.” Of course, the article notes that even President Barack Obama failed to appoint a black woman and, instead, he nominated an Hispanic woman and a white woman.
That raises an obvious question. What would it take to get the Supreme Court to get everyone represented? Let’s figure it out. We would need to make sure that every significant group received their share of the court. Let’s start by looking at all the possible combinations. To keep from getting out of control, we can’t come up with quotas by demographic numbers and would have to put some limits on the number of groups represented. I wouldn’t want to be accused of being unreasonable. These categories are mostly derived from the census and legally protected groups who may face discrimination.
- 7 choices for Race/Ethnicity: Hispanic/Latino, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, Black, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, White, Multiracial. We could expand this list, but where would it end?
- 6 choices for Religion: Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Other. Please don’t be offended if you are an “other,” but we just can’t go down that road.
- 3 choices for Age: 60+, 30-59, 18-29. I’m sorry if you are under 18. You need to grow up first.
- 3 choices for Biological Sexes: Male, Female, Intersex/Other. Again, if you are an “other,” this should be sufficient.
- 3 choices for Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual, Homosexual, Bisexual. There may be others, but I hope one of the gender preferences below will suffice.
- 8 choices for Gender Preference: Man, TransMan, Woman, TransWoman, Nonbinary, Pangender, Agender, and Queer. I know that there are many more, at least according to Facebook, but we have to draw the line somewhere. If you are “other,” I think Queer should cover it. If not, I don’t know what else to say.
- 2 choices for Disability: disabled and not disabled. No need to list all the possible disabilities, I hope.
But we’re not quite done yet. I’ve read comments such as “Clarence Thomas is only black on the outside.” Ouch! Sounds pretty darn racist to me, but let’s consider the possibility that what is on the inside is at least as important as what is on the outside.
- 3 choices for Political Orientation: Liberal, Conservative, Moderate. I’m not even going to add an “other” because, well, that could lead to some uncomfortable court sessions.
Now to get the total number of seats, we can’t just add these up. Because a person is composed of multiple dimensions and will not be a good representative if they are not all taken into account. For instance, a conservative heterosexual black Christian woman isn’t even close to a liberal lesbian black Christian woman. That means we have to multiply all the factors for each characteristic if we really want everyone to be represented.
7 * 6 * 3 * 3 * 3 * 8 * 2 * 3 = 54,432 Supreme Court seats needed.
I know it sounds like a lot, but it could have been worse. And it is likely that not all seats will be filled. For example, it might be hard to find a disabled conservative Jewish Asian male lesbian transwoman who is qualified to serve at the age of 19. Hearing cases might be a bit tricky, but we just need a large stadium like the Roman Colosseum or a really big screen for a Zoom call. Justices would just have to give a thumbs up or down.