Term limits for Supreme Court justices gets a serious look
The president’s commission studying ways to reform the Supreme Court may be warming to the idea of term limits for justices:
Term limits emerged as the leading reform proposal, and the commissioners seemed interested in fine-tuning how they will treat that subject in their report to the president, which is due this fall. Commissioner Rick Pildes, a professor at New York University School of Law, commended the idea of term limits, mentioning that it seemed like there is “a great deal of support behind” it and that, although practitioners seem resistant to many ideas, most think term limits are acceptable.
Much of the panel discussions spent a great deal of time on how term limits could be implemented. One consideration is the specific duration. An 18-year term limit would mean a new justice every two years – or two appointments per presidency. Other potential timeframes include 12 or 16 years. But as Vicki Jackson, a professor of constitutional law at Harvard Law School, explained, 12 years may be too short and could allow a two-term president to appoint six of the nine justices.
There are questions about how such limits would be established, how many years a limit should be, and so on. But a consensus seems to be growing that term limits may be a way to take the partisan vitriol out of court nominations:
Commissioner Michal Waldman, the president of the Brennan Center for Justice, said it has been “striking for us as members of the commission” how widespread the support for term limits is across the political spectrum. Solutions presented by the introduction of term limits include less gamesmanship by justices in choosing their replacements, more predictability in turnover and appointment, as well as less of an incentive to appoint younger justices to ensure a longer foothold on the bench.
Good. A regular rotation in office would be a welcome change from the weird Kremlinology that surrounds justices today.