The Supreme Court begins its new term this morning, amid front-page media lamentations that the Justices have become too partisan under Chief Justice John Roberts. This is best understood as not-very-subtle lobbying of Justice Anthony Kennedy, the most frequent swing vote on what has been a largely centrist Court. But never fear, Pat Leahy has an idea to create a liberal majority anyway—at least on some cases.
The Senate Judiciary Chairman wants Congress to pass a law allowing retired Justices to pinch-hit on cases in which one of the current Justices is recused. His timing is no accident. New Justice Elena Kagan is expected to recuse herself from some 25 cases that she was involved with as Solicitor General, which would mean one fewer vote for the court's liberal bloc.
Conveniently for Mr. Leahy, of the recently retired Justices, the three available Supreme Court subs would be John Paul Stevens, David Souter and Sandra Day O'Connor. Justices Stevens and Souter were reliable liberal votes, while Justice O'Connor was once the Court's swing vote, tilting left in her later years on many issues, especially racial quotas and free speech restrictions.
As for the perception of a partisan Court, President Obama has done more to promote that idea than anyone else now in politics. In his recent Rolling Stone interview, Mr. Obama once again trashed "the Roberts Court" by name for its campaign-finance ruling last year. We hope the Court ignores this attempt at political intimidation and that Congress takes a pass on Mr. Leahy's half-baked plan to pack the bench.