The Supreme Court Needs Term Limits

Article II, Section 1 of the US Constitution establishes that individuals will be appointed as Justices and remain in that position during good behavior. The wording within this section, does not limit the length that Supreme Court Justices may serve, thus we say that these are lifetime appointments. These rules apply to all Federally appointed judges. State judges can be term limited.

The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The 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.

The alleged idea behind these lifetime appointments, which I’ve only heard as other people’s interpretations in defense of a lack of term limits, was for these Justices to serve our country away from Political Partisanship. I’m unable to explain the reasoning behind this as it’s not one of my own beliefs and I won’t make pretend to understand it because this is one of the many things people tell themselves in an Appeal to Tradition. A way to maintain what we’ve always known as the most perfect path. I’ll speak more about this mentality in some of my later posts.

But the idea that Justices must serve a lifetime appointments in order to avoid being pressured by partisanship is dashed on two fronts. The first being that many appointments made by the President, are term limited and many of them, like Directorships for various Federal Departments are 10 year appointments. Traditionally speaking, these appointments have led to fairly non-partisan leadership until the Trump Presidency. The Second hole in this theory is how blatantly both parties tend to select for a future Justice with either a liberal or Republican background. Generally speaking, Republicans select for Republicans. Democrats select for Centrist Democrats and Republicans and also more Liberal judges.

Judges at any level of government are to remain non-partisan. Partisanship creates bias that will taint any and all rulings they make. We have already allowed this. We already know how most judges will rule due to their political leanings. This is unacceptable but we allow it as a Nation because it’s what we’ve always known. Supreme Court Justices were also likely much partisan in the past, but that has changed in the last few decades and so laws must change to address this problem.

There is already one organization that has been pushing for changes for some time.

Fix The Court proposes an 18 year term length. I personally feel this is still too long. 10 years is the maximum a Supreme Court judge and really any Federally appointed Judge should serve. A 10 year appointment would allow for much greater turnover in the SCOTUS. This will assure that 1. A certain mentality or political lean does not dominate the court for decades and 2. the higher turnover will lead to more varied views entering the court as public opinion tends to change drastically every 10 years. We should not suffer the rulings of those stuck 30 or 40 years in the past or with tainted ideas of a Reactionary future, something most Republican appointments are going to have right now.

Even without the term limits being put into place, Polticians and the American people themselves needs to realize that Supreme Court Justices hold their seats for as long as the American People allow them that seat, regardless of what the Constitution says. Republicans wish to put as many Republicans on the Supreme Court as possible, with the idea that those appointments are set in stone and they will serve Republican ideals for decades. But the Court of Public Opinion still takes priority over the SCOTUS. A lifetime appointment will not secure those seats for these Justices if they make unpopular rulings that affect the majority. Things can change very quickly when Americans want them to and with New Democratic majorities waiting in the wings and even more pressure to protect our Democracy, that change may come sooner than most Republicans realize.