Dictionary dot com feels the heat after redefining the term ‘court packing’

Dictionary.com finds itself under fire on social media over a recent adjustment of its definition of “court packing,” not that the online dictionary site was deterred, hitting back to defend its actions.

“Language evolves. So do we,” a tweet from its official Twitter account stated.

As National Review‘s David Harsanyi noted, “sometime between November 1 and December 1, 2020, Dictionary.com, whose ‘proprietary source is the Random House Unabridged Dictionary,’ changed the meaning of the phrase.”

The change was an addition that reads: “the practice of changing the number or composition of judges on a court, making it more favorable to particular goals or ideologies, and typically involving an increase in the number of seats on the court: Court packing can tip the balance of the Supreme Court toward the right or left.”

The original definition, which centered on President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s efforts to add justices to the U.S. Supreme Court, was bumped to the secondary definition.

This coming after the appointment of Supreme Court Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett, giving the court an alleged 6-3 conservative swing — although Chief Justice John Roberts, supposedly one of the six conservatives, has a growing habit of siding with the court’s liberal faction.

Dictionary.com responded to a tweet from J.D. Graham, who called attention to the change, suggesting it was evolution.

With Democrats vowing to expand the number of jurists on the high Court under a Biden administration, should they gain control of the Senate — the Constitution does not fix the number of justices permitted on the Supreme Court — the left has taken to redefining what court packing means.

Case in point, Rutgers Law School professor David Noll offered his take on what it means to pack the court:

“People often use ‘court packing’ to describe changes to the size of the Supreme Court, but it’s better understood as any effort to manipulate the Court’s membership for partisan ends. A political party that’s engaged in court packing will usually violate norms that govern who is appointed (e.g., only appoint jurists who respect precedent) and how the appointment process works (e.g., no appointments during a presidential election).

“Seen from this perspective, the Barrett appointment is classic court packing.”


To his credit, Noll did add that if Democrats “respond to the Barrett appointment by expanding the size of the Court, the immediate effect will be to further diminish the Court’s standing and make it hard for anyone to take the Supreme Court seriously.”

As Harsanyi stated, court-packing remains “a politically toxic phrase.”

However, as RNC Rapid Response Director Steve Guest tweeted, “Filling vacancies is not court packing.”

Here’s a sampling of responses to the story from Twitter:

Tom Tillison


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