A bipartisan coalition of 17 former state attorneys general, including one from Tennessee, this week urged the Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court to preserve the current number of nine U.S. Supreme Court justices.

In a letter, these attorneys general proposed accomplishing that through a “Keep Nine” amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The amendment simply states that “the Supreme Court of the United States shall be composed of nine Justices.” The former attorneys general said this will protect the independence of the U.S. Supreme Court.

The U.S. Constitution remains silent about the number of U.S. Supreme Court justices.

The Keep Nine Amendment, according to an emailed press release, would ensure that no future president or members of Congress, regardless of party, could manipulate the number of justices on the U.S. Supreme Court for political gain.

Former Tennessee Attorney General Paul Summers, who chairs the “Keep Nine” Coalition, addressed the matter this week in an emailed press release.

“If the Commission is serious about its mission to ‘provide an analysis of the principal arguments in the contemporary public debate for and against Supreme Court reform,’ then there is no good reason for the Commission not to give serious consideration to the ‘Keep Nine’ Amendment,” Summers said.

The commission, the press release went on to say, “has heard persuasive testimony” that expanding the number of justices would undermine the independence of the Court and respect for the rule of law.

Summers said in a commentary last year that, prior to 1869, members of Congress expanded or shrunk the size of the U.S. Supreme Court for political advantage.

“After 1869 a tradition grew up that the Court should remain free of such political interference,” Summers wrote.

“When FDR [Franklin Delano Roosevelt] tried to expand the number of Justices in 1937, strong bipartisan opposition defeated his plan.”

Former U.S. Representative Collin Peterson, who represented Minnesota’s Seventh Congressional District, proposed the amendment last year. More than 200 members of Congress and a bipartisan total of more than 1,000 elected officials nationwide also support it, the press release said.

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to chrisbutlerjournalist@gmail.com.