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What would be the pros and cons of limiting Supreme Court terms to 10, 15 ....years?

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olegramps Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-04-09 09:56 AM
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What would be the pros and cons of limiting Supreme Court terms to 10, 15 ....years?
These life time appointments to courts are usually based on the politics of the period. It appears that the system has burdened us with some undesirable people such as Scalia and Thomas who will probably never resign. Now we have to contend with Bybee the Inquisitor.
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BlooInBloo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-04-09 09:58 AM
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1. Read Federalist 78, 79.
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cali Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-04-09 09:59 AM
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2. not gonna happen so discussing it is rather pointless.
no one will amend the constitution for this.
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billyoc Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-04-09 10:03 AM
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3. An insurmountable constitutional amendment process.
Edited on Mon May-04-09 10:04 AM by billyoc
You couldn't pass an amendment in this country to say babies are cute. Forget it.
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Captain Hilts Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-04-09 10:03 AM
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4. More vulnerable to political swings. Not good. Now, why the Librarian of Congress is a lifetime
appointment I do not know.

Make that 12 years.
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JDPriestly Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-04-09 10:24 AM
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5. Very bad idea. It would make the courts more political, less independent and less fair.
The courts are there in part to check the other two branches. The House of Representatives is the most responsive to the political mood of the people at the moment. The executive and presidency is second most responsive and the Senate least -- based on the terms of those elected to those offices. The courts are not supposed to be all that sensitive to political change, political mood. They are supposed to endure and stand for the basic values of the country.

By the way, some judicial appointments are not for life. In California, local judges stand for election. And, for the most part, they always get re-elected, even a few who really, in my opinion, lack, shall we say, judicial temperament. California Supreme Court judges stand for election every so many years. Some years ago, a wonderful, liberal judge, Rose Byrd was voted out of office by the extreme right. Not good.

(Also, federal bankruptcy court judges are not appointed for life.)

Alexander Hamilton discussed the reasons for appointing judges for life in the Federalist Papers, No. 78. I quote from his statements below:

He said the judiciary is the "least dangerous to the political rights of the constitution." It can "never attack with success either of the other two . . . ."

"If then the courts of justice are to be considered as the bulwarks of a limited constitution against legislative encroachments, this consideration will afford a strong argument for the permanent tenure of judicial offices, since nothing will contribute so much as this to that independent spirit in the judges which must be essential to the faithful performance of so arduous a duty."

"The independence of the judges is equally requisite to guard the constitution and the rights of individuals from the effects of those ill humours which the arts of designing men, or the influence of particular conjunctures, sometimes disseminate among the people themselves . . ."


Finally, Alexander Hamilton argues that "a voluminous code of laws is one of the inconveniences necessarily connected with the advantages of a free government. To avoid an arbitrary discretion in the courts, it is indispensable that they should be bound down by strict rules and precedents, which serve to define and point out their duty in every particular case that comes before them, and it will readily be conceived from the variety of controversies which grow out of the folly and wickedness of mankind, that the records of those precedents must unavoidably swell to a very considerable bulk, and must demand long and laborious study to acquire a competent knowledge. Hence it s that there can be but few men in the society, who will have sufficient skill in the laws to qualify them for the stations of judges."

These are, in my opinion, still good reasons for appointing judges for life.

I would add that you don't want judges who have sat on the Supreme Court coming back to argue cases before their colleagues. I think that the number of former presidents and members of Congress who return as lobbyists and paid mouthpieces for wealthy interests is corrupting our government. Judges already leave the bench to return to do private forms of their work such as arbitration. We don't want to encourage big law firms to churn lawyers in and out of judicial appointments any more than they already do.
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tekisui Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-04-09 10:52 AM
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6. Limits would more greatly politicize the bench. Impeachment is
one way to rid the criminal weight.
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