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.
16 year term limit is plenty. That encompasses 4 presidential elections. Times are changing rapidly and we need justices attuned to the times . Age IS a limiting factor. We know that people start having diminished cognitive abilities as they age. Regarding after retirement. No justice should be allowed to accept any money for pay after retirement. But they should be given a generous retirement benefit.
Whether desirable or not, term limits are unlikely without a constitutional amendment. A law establishing term limits would likely be declared unconstitutional by the Court. Amendments which are at all controversial are very difficult to make.
I think this is a goofy, over-complicated proposal:
The first thing that’s needed is a code of ethics and enforcement of impeachment when applicable. We have a sitting justice who was the single vote to deny Congress access to information implicating his wife in the Insurrection.
And we need to expand the court—valid in terms of caseload; imperative in terms of majority’s ahistorical, deceitful, truly radical rulings.
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Thanks for your comment, Annie. Ethical standards sound good, but who would enforce them? Neither the President, Congress, nor the Court itself would be a good choice. Partisan politics make impeachment a dead issue. Expanding the court wouldn’t make things better–a bill to do that wouldn’t pass the Senate; if it did, the Senate wouldn’t likely confirm several nominees thought to be liberals, and it would set a bad precedent. The fundamental problem, as you have noted, is a surplus of reckless voters; there is no easy solution for that.