Former U.S. District Judge U.W. Clemon writes at AL.com that the Supreme Court must be expanded to preserve opportunity for disadvantaged groups. Judge Clemon, a good friend of Whatley Kallas and our frequent co-counsel, movingly describes his own experience: the University of Alabama barred its doors to him as an undergraduate and a law student because he is Black, but he attended Columbia Law School through affirmative action. After graduating, Judge Clemon distinguished himself as an attorney fighting to desegregate public schools, the University of Alabama football team, and the steel industry. President Jimmy Carter appointed him to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, where he served for nearly thirty years, including seven as Chief Judge. After retiring from the bench, Judge Clemon returned to private practice, continuing to fight against discrimination.
Judge Clemon sees in recent Supreme Court decisions a trend to limit constitutional rights not only for Black Americans, but also women and the LBGTQ community. The solution to a Court so “tone-deaf to the crucial needs of the 21st Century,” he writes, is to expand the Supreme Court. In 1869, he notes, Congress expanded the number of Justices and the number of judicial circuits from seven to nine. Now there are thirteen circuits, but still only nine Justices. The Court has become “too small to be the final voice of the nation on vital constitutional issues in 2023.” Judge Clemon concludes, “The expansion of the nation’s highest court is a cause to which I, a proud affirmative action beneficiary, am committed for the rest of my life.”