Steve Bullock: Appoint More Western Judges, Consider Court Expansion

Montana governor Steve Bullock has a new idea for the type of justices he’d seek for the Supreme Court. After touring an ethanol plant and a grain co-op earlier this week, Bullock told Starting Line he would pursue justices who come from the Midwest or Western regions of the country.

“I think that when you have your whole court that are folks who are all, essentially, coming from the East Coast, all coming from a small handful of schools, you’re really losing a big perspective of what this country is,” he said.

Bullock said that as Montana Attorney General he argued a case in front of the Supreme Court, and he could see the disconnect between the a law that’s central to Western states that he was arguing and the justices’ backgrounds.

“I argued a case about water law,” Bullock said. “That’s a pretty mundane, intellectual thing. But when I looked at the Court, not a one of them actually probably fully understood where water comes from.”

Bullock said understanding issues like that is key to understanding unique challenges that some states face, which is important for a judicial body that decides how laws apply to different states across the country. 

The governor also had thoughts about how the structure of the Supreme Court could curb some of its partisanship issues.

“I got to argue in front of the Supreme Court, which for a lawyer is one of the coolest, you know it’s like the Super Bowl, one of the coolest things you could ever do, and I want to believe it’s nonpolitical,” he said. 

But he said his faith was tested when Sen. Mitch McConnell declined to give Pres. Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee a hearing. More recently, Bullock said the Supreme Court’s decision about partisan gerrymandering should open up everyone’s eyes to the politicization of the Court.

All of the Democratic candidates have proposed solutions to the Supreme Court, and Bullock said he’s willing to consider expanding the number of seats on the Court. Another popular option is instituting term limits for justices.

“While it wouldn’t be my most preferable option, the idea of expanding the Supreme Court from nine to 11 should be on the table,” Bullock said.

Beyond the Supreme Court, Bullock offered other ideas for changes to the way the country runs. 

Bullock said he would advocate for the Senate to eliminate the filibuster that allows a single senator to hold up a vote on a bill by extending debate, and requires a  60-vote supermajority to override.

“Look, I’d get rid of the filibuster immediately because then everyone’s individual vote matters that much more,” he said.

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The president can’t change Senate rules, but if Democrats regain the majority in the Senate in 2020, a Democratic president could work with lawmakers to get them to push for the change.

Though the filibuster is seen as a major obstacle to bills making it through the Senate, it has also been used to stall problematic legislation, like the Trump administration’s attempt to remove coverage for pre-existing conditions from the Affordable Care Act.

Bullock had a response for that argument, though.

“When health care is one of the number one issues, at least then people would have a choice and they would see what this guy is doing to strip health care away from them,” he said. “Because no one individual should be able to keep something from coming to the floor to vote.”


by Nikoel Hytrek
Posted 7/11/19

1 Comment on "Steve Bullock: Appoint More Western Judges, Consider Court Expansion"

  • While I tend to agree with Gov. Bullock about the filibuster (and that it is a double-edged sword), I think I would like to see the Senate go BACK to the way the filibuster used to be conducted, not this current “call in to say you’re gonna filibuster” method. It should be hard, as in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”.
    As for the Supreme Court, I know the Constitution doesn’t specify the number of Justices, and the current number of nine is arbitrary, but I REALLY have mixed feelings about expanding the size. I am not sure we really want to go down that road. What’s to prevent the other side, then, from doing either the same thing (say expand it to 15) or worse cut it back to 9 or even 7? That said, I like his idea of more Justices from west of the Mississippi.

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