Matt hits on a topic I’ve been jonesing on for the past few years – mostly as part of a low-key effort to unseat Scalia and Thomas:
… it’s worth emphasizing what a macabre spectacle the life tenure on the SCOTUS is. When you hear about a candidate for the gig, you need to first go look up his or her age. Then when you hear that Elena Kagan is younger than Sonia Sotomayor, you need to consider that Hispanic life expectancy is generally longer than for non-Hispanic whites. Quick—to the actuarial tables! This kind of decision-making process is unseemly and leads to unsound decision-making. It would make much more sense for Justices to serve a single fixed term of pretty long duration (12-18 years, say) followed by a decent pension.
This sounds reasonable enough.
The way it works now, presidents seem to look for relatively young partisans (say, someone in their mid-40s) who can live long enough to bend the court to their particular ideological bent. But before Bush I’s nomination of Clarence Thomas, I had always assumed the High Court was an honor (the highest in our nation) reserved for an exemplary career in law.
If that’s not the way it works, then I just hope President Obama packs the court with the youngest, healthiest progressives that he can pluck off the federal circuit. To his credit, Obama seems unlikely to resort to that sort of tomfoolery.