Reading that Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León wants to add three commissioners to the South Coast Air Quality Management District board so as to tip the board to a more favorable perspective from his point of view reminds one of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s plan to pack the U.S. Supreme Court in hopes of getting more friendly rulings.

It is rather unseemly for a democratic government to readjust the size of a legally constituted body simply because you don’t like the outcome of that body’s deliberations. There are processes for overturning board actions either legislatively or by changing the board members through established procedures. For de León, changing rules by adding sympathetic members to benefit his causes makes it appear a power grab. Ironically, that’s the way opponents of the currently constituted board describe its legal ascension to power. A true power grab occurs when rules are changed to benefit the rule changers.

Such an action could result in wider consequences. Don’t like a board decision—change the board. Don’t like a court decision—change the court.

Consider the hotly contested issue of the high-speed rail. This week a judge ruled in favor of the High Speed Rail Authority to continue pursuing the bullet train over objections raised by plaintiffs claiming that the train would not live up to promises made when the voters passed the train bond in 2008. Basically, the judge ruled that the train project was dynamic and changing and might meet its goals.

Say the bullet train decision is appealed to the California Supreme Court and that court decides instead for the plaintiffs. The court declares that the actions of the rail authority have exceeded the scope of the bond. Such a court ruling could be a death knell to the bullet train.

Would an angry governor and majority legislators who support the bullet train dust off FDR’s old plan and propose a constitutional amendment in an effort to pack the court with sympathetic-to-the-train judges?

If Sen. de León’s bill on the SCAQMD were successful they could claim they have precedent on their side for pursuing such an action.