Should we consider Supreme Court term limits?

March 29, 2015
92 Views
This week, Mike Huckabee, seen here at the 2014 CPAC Convention, suggested term limits for Supreme Court justices.

This week, Mike Huckabee, seen here at the 2014 CPAC Convention, suggested term limits for Supreme Court justices.

Yesterday, former and prospective presidential candidate Mike Huckabee called for term limits on Supreme Court justices.  Commenting from the Nixon Presidential library, Huckabee warned that “nobody should be in an unelected position for life.”  He added, “if the president who appoints them can only serve eight years, the person they appoint should never serve 40.”  Obviously, the Constitution clearly addresses term limits for the president, as Article II states “the executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.  He shall hold his office during the term of four years.”  The 22nd Amendment limits a person from being elected President more than twice.  The Constitution places no such limits on Supreme Court justices.  Article III states, “The judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behavior, and shall, at stated times, receive for their services, a compensation, which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.”  Huckabee referenced the Federalist Papers, written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay in support of his view that our Founders did not intend for justices to occupy their positions for so long.  In Federalist 78, Hamilton actually appears to be quite comfortable with the justices’ lifetime tenure, stating “the standard of good behavior for the continuance in office of the judicial magistracy, is certainly one of the most valuable of the modern improvements in the practice of government.”  Huckabee is not alone, however.  Former Texas Governor Rick Perry and Senator Rand Paul have also supported judicial term limits.  They recognize that a constitutional amendment is required to limit justices’ terms.  Amendments to the Constitution are rare and the process is intentionally difficult to navigate.  Some have suggested other means to limit justices from sitting for decades on our nation’s highest court.  In fact, a group of 34 legal experts, which included professors and retired state supreme court judges, proposed a modernization of the Supreme Court.  In their outline, which they sent to Vice President Biden, Attorney General Eric Holder, and Senate and House Judiciary Chairmen, they detail a method of appointing justices every two years.  Justices would not be subject to absolute term limits, however, those Senior justices who have served more than 18 years, would have a less active role.  They may hear cases in times of a vacancy, and may help decide which lower court cases are worthy of Supreme Court consideration.  Increased turnover on the Court would decompress the politically charged process of appointing and confirming new justices  It would also add fresh viewpoints to the bench and help prevent the Court from becoming more isolated from the public.  Ironically, the legality of any changes in the tenure of Supreme Court justices is likely to be challenged and decided upon by the very body that is under consideration …… the U.S. Supreme Court.

What do you think?

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