Our Fifth Idea
We promised you that we would have eight policy ideas during this autumn’s campaign season.
Idea Number Five is 18-year term limits for Supreme Court justices.
This idea of altering the current life tenure of the nine justices is not new: It has been proposed by many legal scholars in some form or another a number of times in the last decade. The justices work largely in secrecy and, as unelected elites, they are often isolated from the daily lives of the millions of people whose lives they affect. On top of this, they have little accountability and serve as long as they like.
In recent decades, the average tenure has been 26 years. Some critics call the Court’s system “the framers’ mistake.” Many believe that this was not something intended or envisioned by the Founding Fathers and have called on Congress to amend the Constitution.
The proposal I endorse is staggered eighteen-year terms. Every two years, the president would appoint a justice, so that a one-term president would name two Supreme Court justices; a two-term president would name four. There are myriad solutions for these justices’ life tenures, such as completing their work on a federal court once their 18-year tour is through.
We must maintain judicial independence. At the same time, leading legal scholars are calling for an overdue improvement and we should heed their advice.