Nadler Proposes Expanding Nation’s Highest Appellate Panel to Match Number of Lower Courts
U.S. Congressman Jerry Nadler (announcing his bill in front of the Supreme Court): “Nine justices may have made sense in the 19th Century, when so many of our most important laws—covering everything from civil rights, to antitrust, the internet, financial regulation, health care, immigration, and white collar crime—simply did not exist, and did not require adjudication by the Supreme Court.”
Downtown’s voice in the House of Representatives is attempting to make history. Congressman Jerry Nadler, who chairs the Judiciary Committee in the lower house of the federal legislature, has introduced the Judiciary Act of 2021, which seeks to expand the United States Supreme Court with four additional justices. If enacted, this would bring the total number of judges sitting on the nation’s highest appellate panel to 13.
“There is nothing new about changing the size of the Supreme Court,” he said in announcing the bill. “The Constitution leaves the number of justices to the discretion of Congress, and Congress has changed that number seven times already throughout our history. Our founders understood that, as the country and the judicial system evolved, the Court would need to evolve with it.”
“This legislation represents a much-needed next step in that evolution,” he continued. “Many people tend to think about the Supreme Court in terms of its individual members. But we should, instead, think about the Court as a cherished institution that is called upon to hear an ever-growing set of increasingly complex and diverse legal issues each day.”
Mr. Nadler argued that, “the Judiciary Act of 2021 takes the long view of this institution and ensures that it can meet the challenges of today and those for many years to come.” He pointed out that the Court’s current structure of nine justices dates from a time when there were nine Circuit Courts of Appeal, the lower federal panels that feed cases to the Supreme Court. Today, there are 13 such Circuit Courts of Appeal.
“Nine justices may have made sense in the 19th Century, when there were only nine circuits,” he explained, “and only a few hundred appeals were filed before the Court every year.” That was an era, he argued, “when so many of our most important laws — covering everything from civil rights, to antitrust, the internet, financial regulation, health care, immigration, and white collar crime — simply did not exist, and did not require adjudication by the Supreme Court.”
“But the logic behind having only nine justices is much weaker today,” he contended, “when there are 13 circuits, thousands of cases filed before the Court each year, and the full range of statutes and regulations that make our economy and our society work. Our predecessors made eminent sense when they pegged the size of the Supreme Court to the number of judicial circuits. As our country has grown, so too should our Supreme Court.”
Critics of the plan allege that Mr. Nadler’s bill is designed to stack the expanded Court with appointees of President Joe Biden. “We are not packing the Supreme Court,” Mr. Nader responded. “We are unpacking it.”
The Congressman did acknowledge, however, that his plan is aimed, at least in part, “to restore balance to the nation’s highest court after four years of norm-breaking actions by Republicans led to its current composition.” This was a reference to the fact that Senate Republicans (in March, 2016) shattered longstanding precedent by refusing to consider President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland (then a federal judge, now the United States Attorney General) to fill the vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. At the time, they argued that considering a Supreme Court nomination during an election year would “politicize” the process. Using this rationale, they waited until after that year’s presidential election, which handed to newly elected President Donald Trump the opportunity to name the next justice. Four years later, however, when this situation was reversed, Republicans disregarded the antecedent they had established in 2016, and pushed through President Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett less than a month before the 2020 presidential election. These maneuvers have resulted in a six-three majority on the nation’s highest court for justices appointed by Republican presidents. If the President Obama and President Biden had made the 2016 and most recent appointments, judges placed on the Supreme Court by Democratic presidents would today have a five-four majority.
During the first decades of the Supreme Court’s existence, the panel seesawed between five and ten justices. The most recent Congressionally mandated change in the Court’s size (to nine justices) was in the years following the Civil War. In 1937, President Franklin Roosevelt attempted to expand the Supreme Court (to as many as 15 justices), in order to obtain sympathetic treatment for the legislation behind his New Deal domestic program, which the sitting judges had repeatedly struck down as unconstitutional. In that instance, Roosevelt lost the battle, but won the war. His proposed legislation was defeated in Congress, but it sufficiently rattled the justices then seated on the court that they largely ceased blocking his programs.
‘A Gifted Teacher with a Dream’
Church Street School Co-Founder Prepares to Step Down
One of the founders of a Lower Manhattan institution is stepping aside. Dr. Lisa Ecklund-Flores announced earlier this month that, after 30 years at the helm of the Church Street School for Music and Art, she plans to retire in August. “Church Street School was founded by myself and Lauri Bailey in 1990,” she recalls.
“I never dreamed that the school would grow the way it has —from 150 students in the first year to about 1000 students annually now, including our outreach programs,” Dr. Ecklund-Flores reflects. To read more…
Jazz in Tribeca
Tribeca’s own percussion king, Grammy Award-winning Robby Ameen, is returning to the live music arena with a Thursday night jazz series at Phillip Williams Posters, at 52 Warren Street. Catch him and his signature Afro-Cuban rhythms starting Thursday, April 29, 7pm to 9pm. Joining Robby are Bob Franceschini on sax, Edsel Gomez on piano, and Lincoln Goines on bass. Suggested donation is $20, which includes a glass of wine. Admission is limited due to covid restrictions; call 212-513-0313 for a reservation.
Robby Ameen has played with Dizzy Gillespie, Ruben Blades, Paul Simon, and many other musicians of note. His most recent album is “Diluvio.”
The Battery Park City Authority asks that the public not interact with or feed the urban wildlife in the neighborhood’s parks and green spaces, and at the waterfront.
In 2009, Dr. Wendy Lower, the acclaimed author of Hitler’s Furies and chair of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Academic Council, was shown a photograph just brought to the Museum. The image—a rare “action shot” documenting the horrific final moment of a family’s murder—drove her to conduct years of forensic and archival detective work in Ukraine, Germany, Slovakia, Israel, and the United States, recovering new layers of detail about the Nazis’ open-air massacres in eastern Europe and the role of the family unit in Nazi ideology. In her new book The Ravine: A Family, a Photograph, a Holocaust Massacre Revealed, Lower explores the exceptional image and the new understandings it has unlocked about the Holocaust. Join Lower for a discussion about the book and her research with Paul Salmons, a Holocaust education specialist, curator of Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away, chief curator of Seeing Auschwitz, and consultant to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. $10
Skyscraper Museum webinar. Design for constructability and delivery of high performance of supertalls has been a prime concern of Ahmad Abdelrazaq. Having begun his career in the Chicago office of SOM in 1987, where his project portfolio included the Jin Mao Tower and the Hotel De Artes in Barcelona, Ahmad joined Samsung in 2004 and went to work as the Chief Technical Director of the Burj Dubai Project, collaborating with the architects and engineers at SOM on the evolving design for the world’s tallest building, later renamed Burj Khalifa. For that project he developed an award-winning real-time structural health monitoring program, embedding more than 2,000 instruments and survey programs to correlate and verify design assumptions with actual tower behavior. Ahmad’s lecture will focus on his work on the Lakhta Center, at 462 meters, the tallest building in St. Petersburg and in Europe. The iconic shape of the tower is composed of five individual “leaves” or “petals” that twist and taper as they rise and rotate 90 degrees from base to pinnacle. The unique form presented complex challenges for design and construction, leading to opportunities to improve the original design and develop a new outrigger structural system with significant cost and time benefits. Free
The Depopulation of Downtown
Analysis Documents Migration Out of Lower Manhattan During Pandemic
An intriguing new data analysis from CBRE, the real estate services and investment firm, quantifies how many people left Lower Manhattan permanently during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report, “COVID-19 Impact on Migration Patterns,” uses change-of-address requests filed with the U.S. Postal Service to compile a real-time demographic snapshot of inflow and outflow of residents at the neighborhood level. Authors Eric Willet (CBRE’s research director) and Matt Mowell (the senior economist at CBRE Econometric Advisors) establish that each of the eight residential zip codes in Lower Manhattan lost population during 2020.
Rally Focused On Possible Fiscal Cataclysm Facing Battery Park City Condo Owners
On Friday, April 23, a “Rally to Save BPC Homeowners” was held online and in-person to voice concerns among Battery Park City residents who own condominiums that their homes will soon become catastrophically expensive to own, and that the value of their property will decline to zero in the foreseeable future.
These worries are driven by the exotic nature of property ownership in Battery Park City, where homeowners, landlords, and developers do not own outright the acreage they occupy, but instead lease the space (through the year 2069) from a government agency—the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA)—in exchange for yearly remittances of “ground rent,” as well as so-called “payments in lieu of taxes” (PILOT). The latter category of payments is determined by municipal tax assessors and passed directly to the City by the BPCA.
Discussions between the Authority and the Battery Park City Homeowners Coalition (which represents condominium owners) have been ongoing for several years. To read more…
An Outbreak of Affordability
Soft Rental Market Puts Downtown Apartments within Reach of Voucher Guidelines, Almost
One perverse boon arising from the pandemic coronavirus (and the economic slowdown that it triggered) is a slight—but significant—uptick in housing affordability in Lower Manhattan. A new study from the online real estate database company, StreetEasy, finds that the inventory of apartments in Downtown’s eight residential zip codes that are eligible for New York Citys’ housing voucher program has expanded, as asking rents across all categories of apartments have dropped. This has, in a handful of cases, brought rental units within range of the maximum payments allowed under the voucher program.
The study was authored by Nancy Wu, an economist at StreetEasy, who uses data science and econometrics to publish original research on the New York City housing market. Its upbeat title, “Pandemic Rent Drops Double NYC’s Voucher-Accessible Housing,” refers to a City-wide trend, but for residents of Lower Manhattan (or people who aspire to live here), this optimism is tempered by statistics and market dynamics at the local level. To read more…
CLASSIFIEDS & PERSONALS
Swaps & Trades, Respectable Employment, Lost and Found
HRPT Moves Ahead with Plans to Recast Former Tow Pound as Waterfront Park
Lower Manhattan residents who use the Hudson River Greenway to traverse the waterfront will soon have another open space to savor. The Hudson River Park Trust has begun demolition and reconstruction work on Pier 76 (located at 12th Avenue in the West 30s, across from the Javits Convention Center), which will be transformed into an interim park by June. To read more…
OPINION AND ANALYSIS
The New Roaring Twenties
New York City Won’t Be The Same,
But It Will Be Great
A chorus of New York naysayers are telling us that the City will never be the same after this pandemic. They are right—but not in the way they think. New York City is on the cusp of another “Roaring 20’s,” and I, for one, can’t wait.
One hundred years ago we were recovering from a pandemic (the Spanish Flu) and a Great War that spread fear and death. New York is facing a similar trauma. Loved ones lost are never coming back. Some of us have lost jobs, homes, or even just our favorite restaurants. A century ago, when it was all over, people were ready to let loose—and let loose they did. I believe that a similar spirit is about to start a recovery that will reshape the city in exciting ways, creating new opportunities for many.
More Survivors than Responders Now are Submitting Claims
The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) has released its annual report for 2020, which documents some significant developments.
Over the course of its ten years of operation thus far, the VCF has awarded $7.76 billion to more than 34,400 individuals who have suffered death or personal injury as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and their aftermath. The vast majority of these injuries take the form of illness caused by exposure to toxic materials that were released by the destruction of the World Trade Center.