The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour, … — The Constitution: Article III Section 1.
Jessica Gresko and Emily Swanson, writing for “The Associated Press,” report that “2 in 3 favor term limits or a mandatory retirement age for Supreme Court Justices. I understand why term limits might be a popular idea today, when as the authors report only 83% of us have “a great deal of confidence in The Court, but it isn’t a good idea:
- It wouldn’t change the the Supreme Court in the long term because Justices forced to retire would include those leaning both left and right.
- It would negate the constitutional provision that Justices should not act in haste or with a thought for future employment.
Term limits might have one beneficial consequence: There would no longer be an incentive for a President and the Senate to prefer young candidates.
Current concerns about The Court are not primarily The Court’s doing. If we wish to reform the process of selecting candidates for lifetime offices, we need to reform Presidential nominations and Senate responsibility to “advise and consent.”
A mandatory retirement age is also a dubious proposal. It reflects age discrimination: the idea that older people aren’t capable. Not only is age not necessarily a problem, but forcing older Justices to retire would bias The Court toward the views of the current administration, which would be unfair and unwise.