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Monday, April 04, 2022

A Modest Proposal: Term Limits for the Supreme Court

 In announcing her support for Jackson, Senator Murkowski (R-AK), said she was backing the nominee in part to reject “the corrosive politicization of the review process for Supreme Court nominees, which, on both sides of the aisle, is growing worse and more detached from reality by the year.”

Murkowski is completely right here. Did it start with Carswell? Bork? Thomas? Garland? Regardless of when this bipartisan shitshow started, it does get worse and worse.

How to back off? Well, part of the problem is that the stakes are seen as so high. Judges can be on the Supreme Court for decades. So maybe that should change. Article III of the Constitution says judges "both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services, a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office." So, you are appointed as a federal judge so long as you want to stay -- a federal judge, not necessarily a Supreme Court judge. We could limit terms on the Supreme Court to maybe 8 or 10 years, after which the judge would rotate to another court (Appeals, for example).  

I'm not a constitutional lawyer, but it would seem that Congress could legislate this. It wouldn't require a Constitutional amendment. And, it would be less politically controversial than changing the number of justices on SCOTUS (which Congress has done before, so it clearly has the power to do).

This would lower the perceived political stakes substantially, and perhaps provide a way to cool off the type of corrosive confirmation hearings we've seen in recent years.

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