by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Liberals live in a state of semi-panic that [Ruth Bader] Ginsburg will leave the court and give President Trump the chance to name a third Supreme Court justice and put a conservative stamp on the body for a generation. Any Senate confirmation battle would be the mother of all political brawls, easily eclipsing the one last year surrounding Brett Kavanaugh.
It’s time to end the unseemly position that the anachronism of life tenure for Supreme Court justices has put the country in. It’s a good thing that modern medicine is extending the lives of everyone, including Supreme Court justices. But the time has come to remove the incentives that make justices serve until they drop dead or are gaga. It’s time to put term limits on the Supreme Court.
Our Founding Fathers granted life tenure to Supreme Court justices to ensure their independence. But that’s a relic of a day when the average life expectancy was 38. Today, it is more than twice that.
Now, Supreme Court justices can spend two generations on the bench. And, so long as they avoid impeachment, only they can decide when it’s time to leave. Judges today usually retire only when they can ensure a philosophically compatible successor. This can result in judges staying past their “sell by” date either physically or mentally. Examples in the past 50 years include Justices William O. Douglas and Thurgood Marshall.