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"Just Majority" bus tour stops in Detroit, calls for Supreme Court reforms


The U.S. Supreme Court has become an undemocratic institution out of step with the American people, and needs major changes.

That’s the message of the “Just Majority” nationwide campaign bus tour, which made a stop in Detroit on Wednesday.

Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) was there with reproductive rights activists and court reform advocates. She said she supports legislation that would expand the court, add binding ethics requirements, and impose term limits on justices.

Tlaib said last year’s Dobbs decision overturning Roe vs. Wade and national abortion rights is just one example of the current Court ruling against judicial precedent and majority public opinion.

“These justices are not acting in the best interests of the American people, as we all have felt over and over again,” Tlaib said. “And they use their lifetime appointments to shield themselves from any accountability.”

Tlaib said recent ethics allegations engulfing Justices Clarence Thomasand Neil Gorsuchalso highlight the need for anti-corruption and reporting requirements.

“We already know that the Supreme Court is the only court in the country without a code of ethics. It's absolutely ridiculous. We must implement a binding code of ethics in the United States Court,” said Tlaib, adding that she believes Justice Thomas should be impeached.

Cecile Richards, the former national director of Planned Parenthood, said rulings like Dobbs have damaged the Court’s credibility and represent a danger to democracy.

“The Supreme Court of the United States is no longer a source of justice,” Richards said. “Women have had their most fundamental rights stripped away by this Supreme Court. And frankly, we're all living in fear of what is next.”

Court reformers said that in addition to abortion rights, the current Court is hamstringing the country’s ability to tackle pressing issues including gun violence, climate change, and voting rights.

Georgetown University law professor Caroline Frederickson served on President Joe Biden’s Commission on the Supreme Court. She said she and other commissioners “examined a whole variety of reforms,” including term limits and recusal rules.

Frederickson said she supports those changes. “But I came to believe very strongly, along with several other members of the commission, that the only change and the only reform that was actually going to be meaningful in this time was to expand the court,” she said.

Speakers emphasized that Congress has the power to implement these changes to the Court, an idea backed up by most legal scholars. But they said that won’t happen without substantial public pressure, something the bus tour hopes to drum up.

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee has been holding hearings on Supreme Court ethics this week. Chief Justice John Roberts declined an invitation to testify.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October, 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit. Before her arrival at Michigan Radio, Sarah worked at WDET-FM as a reporter and producer.
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