Why Do 9 Justices Serve on the Supreme Court?

The idea of adding justices to the Supreme Court is not a new one—it has been done many times throughout America’s history. There is no fixed number provided in the Constitution, so adding justices only requires a majority vote in both houses of Congress and the president’s signature.

Only since 1869 have there consistently been nine justices appointed to the Court. Before that, Congress routinely changed the number of justices to achieve its own partisan political goals, resulting in as few as five Supreme Court justices required by law under John Adams to as many as 10 under Abraham Lincoln.


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