10 Jun 2010

Setting the Size of the Supreme Court

In the article entitled Setting the Size of the Supreme Court, F. Andrew Hessick III and Samuel P. Jordan explore the variables which essentially determine the perfect strength of the highest constitutional court of a country. Reflecting upon the United States Supreme Court, the paper takes into consideration factors such as (*) impartiality, (*) independence, (*) diversity, (*) representation, (*) efficiency, (*) cohesion, etc. which essentially determine the seamless integration and working of the court and on the flip side a contact conflict amongst the office bearers. 

The abstract states as under;
As with any institutional feature, the size of the Supreme Court should be informed by a definition of functional goals. This article describes how the current size of the Supreme Court is largely untethered from any such definition, and it begins the process of understanding how size and Court performance might interact. To do so, it identifies a list of institutional goals for the Supreme Court and explores how changing the size of the Court promotes or obstructs the attainment of those goals. Given that the Court's institutional goals are numerous and occasionally in tension, there is no definitive answer to the question of how large the Court should be. Instead, the optimal size of the Court depends on how one views the relative importance of each institutional goal and how those goals should be balanced. Unfortunately, the current size of the Supreme Court is not attributable to a careful balancing of these institutional goals, but instead is due to political efforts to secure power on the Court. Consequently, a reconsideration of the Court's size in light of institutional considerations is long overdue.

The paper provides an interesting reading in as much as even the Law Commission of India, in its 230th Report had recommended that the size of the Indian Supreme Court be increased and mulled over the possibility of setting up benches of the Supreme Court in other parts of the country. We also had an occasion to write on the same a long time back in our earlier post

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