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Subject: Time for Supreme Court term limits? rss

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Damian
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With the panic and hand wringing that comes up every time there's a vacancy on the Supreme Court, is it time for a Constitutional Amendment to set term limits for Justices like we did for Presidents? This blog article, written when Kagan was nominated, sets out some good arguments. We never had explicit term limits for Presidents, but it was understood that no one person should hold that much power for too long so no one really ran for more than two terms. Once FDR broke that understanding it was codified and most people would agree now it was a good idea. A ten year term for a Justice would make the process no longer the life or death panic it is today with lifetime appointment of a Justice would could sit for the next three decades or more. It would lead to a nomination basically once a year, so every President is appointing and there is constant turnover, but not so much that it's chaotic.
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Steven Woodcock
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damiangerous wrote:
With the panic and hand wringing that comes up every time there's a vacancy on the Supreme Court, is it time for a Constitutional Amendment to set term limits for Justices like we did for Presidents? This blog article, written when Kagan was nominated, sets out some good arguments. We never had explicit term limits for Presidents, but it was understood that no one person should hold that much power for too long so no one really ran for more than two terms. Once FDR broke that understanding it was codified and most people would agree now it was a good idea. A ten year term for a Justice would make the process no longer the life or death panic it is today with lifetime appointment of a Justice would could sit for the next three decades or more. It would lead to a nomination basically once a year, so every President is appointing and there is constant turnover, but not so much that it's chaotic.


Yes.

It's one of the tragic oversights of the Founders when they were crafting things.

Once I invent my time machine, it's on the list of things I intend to chat with them about.


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Richard Hefferan
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It's very debatable that presidential term limits were intended but not codified. Looking beyond that to the Supreme Court, it's much less debatable. This is the system as intended.

I do not support terms on the Supreme Court. They are the arbiters of our highest law and I believe it is a stroke of brilliance to free them from the politics and corruption opportunities inherent in a position which is limited. Their life after the court needing consideration imposes more opportunities for the perversion of justice, not less.
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J.D. Hall
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What the Framers were concerned about, and rightfully so, was the injection of politics into the judiciary. Yes, the Framers were at their core wildly idealistic dreamers, but the system they set up did remove as much of political influences as possible.

To me, if a SCOTUS judge can only serve 10 years, amid the resulting turnover would be an immense amount of political ass-kissing and arm twisting. It also would put federal and state judges more in "the moment" politically, and thus less likely to consider the broad, long arc of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, various Amendments, and previous decisions handed down by the courts.

For those people who are concerned about the politicization of the Court, placing term limits on justices would only accelerate the process.
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Jon Badolato
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remorseless1 wrote:
What the Framers were concerned about, and rightfully so, was the injection of politics into the judiciary. Yes, the Framers were at their core wildly idealistic dreamers, but the system they set up did remove as much of political influences as possible.

To me, if a SCOTUS judge can only serve 10 years, amid the resulting turnover would be an immense amount of political ass-kissing and arm twisting. It also would put federal and state judges more in "the moment" politically, and thus less likely to consider the broad, long arc of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, various Amendments, and previous decisions handed down by the courts.

For those people who are concerned about the politicization of the Court, placing term limits on justices would only accelerate the process.


Agreed. Although I would support an age of mandatory retirement around 80 or 85 years old, simply because it can be a cerebrally demanding job, and let's be frank, the brains abilitities do decrease somewhat with age, not to mention the physical stamina of someone that age.
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I do think it would be a good idea. I think turnover in the Court would lead to less stagnation and predictability. If people don't like 10 years, then set it at 15.
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she2 wrote:
I do think it would be a good idea. I think turnover in the Court would lead to less stagnation and predictability. If people don't like 10 years, then set it at 15.


Which is pretty close to the overall average tenure of a Supreme Court Justice.
 
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bjlillo wrote:
I think once every two years we should summarily execute the longest tenured justice.


Feed him or her to the lions, perhaps?
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Jon Badolato
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bjlillo wrote:
I think once every two years we should summarily execute the longest tenured justice.


With Trump as POTUS this would remain a distinct possibility.
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Junior McSpiffy
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she2 wrote:
bjlillo wrote:
I think once every two years we should summarily execute the longest tenured justice.


Feed him or her to the lions, perhaps?


But then we'd have to worry about how long to appoint the lions tasked with eating the judiciary.
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Damian
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andyl wrote:
she2 wrote:
I do think it would be a good idea. I think turnover in the Court would lead to less stagnation and predictability. If people don't like 10 years, then set it at 15.


Which is pretty close to the overall average tenure of a Supreme Court Justice.

That's what it used to be, yeah, 14.9 year average from 1789 to 1970. Since 1970 the average has jumped to 26.1 years.
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Andy Leighton
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damiangerous wrote:
andyl wrote:
she2 wrote:
I do think it would be a good idea. I think turnover in the Court would lead to less stagnation and predictability. If people don't like 10 years, then set it at 15.


Which is pretty close to the overall average tenure of a Supreme Court Justice.

That's what it used to be, yeah, 14.9 year average from 1789 to 1970. Since 1970 the average has jumped to 26.1 years.


The overall average hasn't - the 26.1 years is the average for the justices appointed since 1970.

Simple math(s) tells you that overall average cannot have jumped up that much.
 
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andyl wrote:
damiangerous wrote:
andyl wrote:
she2 wrote:
I do think it would be a good idea. I think turnover in the Court would lead to less stagnation and predictability. If people don't like 10 years, then set it at 15.


Which is pretty close to the overall average tenure of a Supreme Court Justice.

That's what it used to be, yeah, 14.9 year average from 1789 to 1970. Since 1970 the average has jumped to 26.1 years.


The overall average hasn't - the 26.1 years is the average for the justices appointed since 1970.

Simple math(s) tells you that overall average cannot have jumped up that much.


Nothing like a good semantics gripe to get my dick hard.
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Damian
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andyl wrote:
damiangerous wrote:
andyl wrote:
she2 wrote:
I do think it would be a good idea. I think turnover in the Court would lead to less stagnation and predictability. If people don't like 10 years, then set it at 15.


Which is pretty close to the overall average tenure of a Supreme Court Justice.

That's what it used to be, yeah, 14.9 year average from 1789 to 1970. Since 1970 the average has jumped to 26.1 years.


The overall average hasn't - the 26.1 years is the average for the justices appointed since 1970.

Simple math(s) tells you that overall average cannot have jumped up that much.

Ok, but I guess I don't consider that a significant statistic in a vacuum. If you look at the paper itself there is all sorts of data and presentation you can use (for both arguments).
 
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J
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I like the way it is now. I don't see term limiting them will ease any drama , but likely cause more. Also the Judges tend to get more Liberal the longer they serve.
 
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Wendell
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I'm all for very generous SC term limits. Say, 25 years, and no re-nomination. Assuming the normal habit of picking SC justices that are at least in their 40s, that will take a justice thru to the end of his/her more or less normal working life. With zero possibility of being renominated, he/she doesn't have to suck up to a president to keep the cushy job.

 
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wifwendell wrote:
I'm all for very generous SC term limits. Say, 25 years, and no re-nomination. Assuming the normal habit of picking SC justices that are at least in their 40s, that will take a justice thru to the end of his/her more or less normal working life. With zero possibility of being renominated, he/she doesn't have to suck up to a president to keep the cushy job.



It sounds like you're suggesting that the term last long enough that the justice retires afterward. Why not just make the term last until (possibly a generously late, as job has suggested) retirement?
 
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J.D. Hall
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GameCrossing wrote:
she2 wrote:
bjlillo wrote:
I think once every two years we should summarily execute the longest tenured justice.


Feed him or her to the lions, perhaps?


But then we'd have to worry about how long to appoint the lions tasked with eating the judiciary.

Would the lions actually have to eat the justices? Because then we're going to have to find gluten-tolerant lions or gluten-free judges.
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Mac Mcleod
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I think allowing the incoming president to ask one jurist to step down would balance the two extremes.

It gives an theoretical maximum of 36 years yet would produce a more moderate court.
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Wendell
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rinelk wrote:
wifwendell wrote:
I'm all for very generous SC term limits. Say, 25 years, and no re-nomination. Assuming the normal habit of picking SC justices that are at least in their 40s, that will take a justice thru to the end of his/her more or less normal working life. With zero possibility of being renominated, he/she doesn't have to suck up to a president to keep the cushy job.



It sounds like you're suggesting that the term last long enough that the justice retires afterward. Why not just make the term last until (possibly a generously late, as job has suggested) retirement?


If the justices are able to retire afterward at age 70 or something, they will be somewhat less susceptible to dangling job offers from corporations, "Hey Justice Pooperschmitt, when your term is up when you're 55 years old, wanna come work for MegaCorp and make some big bucks? No of course we have no possible interest in the outcome of any court case..."
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maxo-texas wrote:
I think allowing the incoming president to ask one jurist to step down would balance the two extremes.

It gives an theoretical maximum of 36 years yet would produce a more moderate court.

I like this idea, but combine it with a retirement age of 75. Or maybe 70. This lets people and parties plan ahead, rather than be surprised by a death.

 
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Seth Brown
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Nope. We've already got a Congress that just prepares people to be corporate lobbyists and such, with most of the Congress using their time to make alliances and assure themselves a cushy future and somewhere to land. SC Justices need that surety that they are appointed for life, because it's the only way to get them to ignore all that crap. When your future is assured, only then can you stop worrying about how your decisions affect your future, and focus on whether your decisions are right.
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Mac Mcleod
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Steve1501 wrote:
maxo-texas wrote:
I think allowing the incoming president to ask one jurist to step down would balance the two extremes.

It gives an theoretical maximum of 36 years yet would produce a more moderate court.

I like this idea, but combine it with a retirement age of 75. Or maybe 70. This lets people and parties plan ahead, rather than be surprised by a death.



I think that's a reasonable idea. I prefer 75 to 70.


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