Democrats Move to Expand Supreme Court After Trump Immunity Ruling

July 2, 2024 in News by RBN Staff




Democrats are calling for the Supreme Court to be expanded after its conservative majority ruled that former presidents have broad immunity from prosecution.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority that a former president has “absolute immunity” for acts that fall “within his conclusive and preclusive constitutional authority” and is entitled to presumptive immunity for all official acts. There is no immunity for unofficial, or private, acts.

The court’s three liberal justices criticized the majority’s opinion in scathing dissents, with Justice Sonia Sotomayor writing that “in every use of official power, the President is now a king above the law.”

The court didn’t dismiss the indictment alleging former President Donald Trump plotted to overturn his 2020 election loss to President Joe Biden. The decision sends the case back to a lower court, where U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan must conduct further analysis to determine whether the actions Trump is accused of were official or not.

Demonstrators rally in front of Supreme Court
Demonstrators rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on June 28, 2024, in Washington, D.C. Democratic lawmakers have called for the nation’s highest court to be expanded. CHIP SOMODEVILLA/GETTY IMAGES

But it amounts to a major victory for Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, as it makes it all but certain that he will not face trial in Washington ahead of November’s election.


Trump celebrated the ruling as a “BIG WIN FOR OUR CONSTITUTION AND DEMOCRACY.”

Biden said in remarks on Monday evening that the court had done a “terrible disservice to the people of this nation.” The American people, he said, “deserve to have an answer in the courts” before the November election.

The ruling has prompted Democratic lawmakers to push various measures to overhaul the court.

The proposals—which include expanding the court, imposing a binding code of ethics and passing term limits—are all unlikely to come to fruition any time soon, since Republicans narrowly control the House.

In a statement responding to the court’s ruling, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries said House Democrats “will engage in aggressive oversight and legislative activity with respect to the Supreme Court.”

The aim will be to “ensure that the extreme, far-right justices in the majority are brought into compliance with the Constitution,” he said.

Rep. Hank Johnson, of Virginia, called on Congress to pass legislation that would expand the court from nine to 13 justices, as well as other legislation that would require justices to adopt a binding code of conduct. The judges adopted a code of conduct last year following sustained criticism over undisclosed gifts and trips to some justices, but it lacks any means of enforcement.

“This ruling, and this session of the court, has been brutally assaultive on democracy and the rule of law, and we must expand the court and pass term limits to protect what constitutional order remains intact,” Johnson said in a statement in response to the immunity ruling.

Johnson “has been calling for court expansion well before this latest ruling on immunity,” a spokesperson for the congressman told Newsweek. “Wealthy special interests have corrupted the Republican supermajority on the Supreme Court—making it unethical and unaccountable. Now those special interests are getting what they paid for: a Supreme Court majority that protects the wealthy and powerful, while taking away rights from everyone else. We need to reform the Supreme Court, so it protects the rights of all Americans by reducing the influence of wealthy, special interests.”

Expanding the court is needed “to immediately change the court’s makeup in a way that reduces the power of wealthy special interests and restore balance,” the spokesperson said.

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, of New Jersey, said lawmakers “must take all available measures to reign in the increasingly unfettered power of this radical court, including a binding code of ethics and expanding the number of justices.”

She said that six people “who were never elected cannot be allowed to continue destroying our democracy.”

The court is “beholden to right-wing groups and the billionaire mega-donors that fund them,” Minnesota Senator Tina Smith wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

“The Supreme Court is broken. The remedy is clear. Expand the Court.”

The lawmakers have been contacted for further comment via email.

Update 07/02/24, 10:50 a.m. ET: This article has been updated to add comment from a spokesperson for Rep. Johnson.