Supreme Court review commission finds broad support for term limits on justices
The president’s commission of Supreme Court reform is about to get down to writing its final report. Some of the group’s ideas are already public, and those that are show a reluctance to “pack” the court with more members, but a lot of support for term limits on justices.
Regarding expanding the court, as is currently popular on the left, a subcommittee of the larger commission said:
…there was no “legal obstacle” to expanding the court — its size has varied over the centuries but has remained at nine since 1869 — [but] “the risks of Court expansion are considerable, including that it could undermine the very goal of some of its proponents of restoring the Court’s legitimacy.”
Expansion efforts, the report says, might hurt the high court’s “long-term legitimacy or otherwise undermine its role in our legal system.” The report cautions that it could lead to a “continuous cycle” of expansions, citing one estimate of as many as 29 justices in the next 50 years.
“The public might come to see the court as a ‘political football,’ a pawn in a continuing partisan game,” it said.
The last thing America needs is a Supreme Court that’s got more active members than a baseball team. But what about term limits?
…term limits for justices “appear to enjoy the most widespread and bipartisan support,” another subcommittee’s report said.
It said a term of 18 years seemed most popular with those who presented testimony. But there is a big obstacle: Many of those who testified believe the Constitution must be amended to make such a change, a difficult undertaking.
“The United States is the only major constitutional democracy in the world that has neither a retirement age nor a fixed term of years for its high court justices,” the report said.
There are others who believe Congress could impose limits on the court. Regardless of who does it, the idea is a powerful one that could take the increasingly nasty political sting out of court nominations. It would also have the benefit of ending the bizarre Kremlinology surrounding which justice is in ill health, and which just has the sniffles.