Term limits.

If they’re good enough for the president, senators, congress members and most other elected representatives, why not Supreme Court justices?

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.

14 thoughts on “Term limits.

  1. Scott May 4, 2009 at 9:00 am Reply

    I guess the first problem with term limits for the S.Ct would be the Constitution, which gives them life tenure. I can understand your question as life tenure in the 1700’s was quite different from that today given advances in medicine and our long lifespans. As for your statement about a seat on “the High Court being an honor (the highest in our nation) reserved for an exemplary career in law”, if the only example you think you can find is Clarence Thomas, then you haven’t looked all that hard. William O. Douglas, spent more time as a law professor and gov’t employee than as an actual attorney and was never a judge until he joined the S.Ct. He was almost impeached for his financial dealings while as a Justice and to top it off he wanted to give trees standing to sue. In the present case, Obama clearly wants to pick a minority woman rather than find the best over all candidate. I guess Obama has a quota system for the Court.

    • G.D. May 4, 2009 at 11:07 am Reply

      In the present case, Obama clearly wants to pick a minority woman rather than find the best over all candidate. I guess Obama has a quota system for the Court.

      you see what scott did there? he implied, bizarrely, that the ‘best overall candidate’ wouldn’t actually be a woman or a woman of color. nevermind that of the women judges whose names have been bandied about — Sotomayor, Roseborough, Kagan, etc —- are all impeccably credentialed. Of the numbers I can find, around 30% of the lawyers practicing law in the U.S. are women, and of course, more than half the population is.

      yet in the court’s history, 97% of the appointees have been white men. I dunno. Sounds like a quota system to me.

      • Scott May 4, 2009 at 11:35 am Reply

        I never implied or explicitly said that, “that the ‘best overall candidate’ wouldn’t actually be a woman or a woman of color.” I merely pointed out the fact that the only names that have been mentioned so far are minority women. There could very well be others that are better qualified but yet for some reason (maybe race or gender) have been left off this list. Neither you, I nor Obama would ever know if there is a better qualified person if only minority women are considered in the first place. The fact that, “30% of the lawyers practicing law in the U.S. are women, and of course, more than half the population is,” is totally irrelevant if the goal is to find the best qualified person. On the other hand if all you want is a minority woman then by all means use spurious criteria but don’t then act like the best qualified person was chosen for the job. So G.D., do you want the best qualified person or do you just want a minority woman?

        Now it is true that for quite some time women were not able serve as Justices on the S.Ct. and that is a wrong that can probably never be made right. But I don’t see how more discrimination will solve past wrongs.

        • G.D. May 4, 2009 at 12:01 pm Reply

          Hyperbolize, much? Who are all these women of color that are on the short list? Elena Kagan is white. Diane Wood is white. Seth Waxman and William Fletcher are both white guys. All of them are, supposedly, on the short list. The only women of color on the short list are Sotomayor, Roseborough, Sears and Wardlaw. Deval Patrick and Harold Koh are the only two men of color whose names i’ve seen mentioned.

          That’s a whopping four women of color, on a speculative shortlist of at least 10 people.

          Neither you, I nor Obama would ever know if there is a better qualified person if only minority women are considered in the first place.

          The irony. It burns.

          • Scott May 4, 2009 at 12:12 pm Reply

            OK, I stand corrected that I was wrong about Kagan’s and Woods’ ethnicity. However, I’ve not seen or heard anything about the consideration of any men just the women.

            • Steve May 4, 2009 at 1:10 pm Reply

              there are men possibly being considered the media just hasnt included them as much.

              Koh is an Asian-Americna male.

              The other thing about women is that they lack on this Court, but since Sandra was appoined the amount of woman appeals judges has skyrocketed…so there are ALOT more qualified woman than there used to be…which makes it even harder to not appoint one. But it’s still going to be based on qualifications not just gender/race.

              I hate that all the criticism of Sotomayor is her “attitude”…clearly that’s racialized..A Puerto Rican woman from the Bronx who apparently goes in on lawyers during oral arguments…but its ok if Scalia does that..ugh.

      • shani-o May 4, 2009 at 11:37 am Reply

        This is ancillary, but you know what bugs me about all the pieces on how Obama is being pressured to pick a woman or minority? They fail to acknowledge how he has had no problem whatsoever picking women and minorities (and sometimes both!) for upper-level positions, thus far. Anyway, carry on.

    • Winslowalrob May 4, 2009 at 11:34 am Reply

      Scott, I know you are trying to throw salt out there, but the idea that the ‘best overall candidate’ (rather than ‘over all’ candidate although I should probably not talk cuz me no spell guud either) for the SCOTUS is some easily-identifiable person who is struggling not to get their job stolen by a minority woman (because they obviously cannot be one and the same) is straight retarded. There is not some checklist that everyone should just look at to see if the candidate knows their stuff. As far as presidents are concerned, they just want to find the youngest person with the least political enemies so their influence on the SCOTUS will be felt well after the president bounces (cough cough Roberts and Alito, who were not all that qualified and totally got in via affirmative action but I digress). I have to evaluate people all the damn time, and I can assure you that visible ‘credentials’ rarely reflect on the quality of someone’s mind. If only they did, my job would be a lot easier!

      Everything else, just see GD’s comment.

      • G.D. May 4, 2009 at 12:52 pm Reply

        you think roberts wasn’t qualified? i dunno. i may not agree with the dude, but he’s kind of a beast.

        • Steve May 4, 2009 at 1:04 pm Reply

          Yea umm… Roberts is a GENIUS.

          So to say he’s not qualified is insane. He argued before the Court 40 times.

          Harriet Miers…was not qualified LOL…

          Clarence Thomas…possibly not “qualified”…

          Alito also was qualified…

          • Winslowalrob May 4, 2009 at 1:27 pm Reply

            Roberts IS a genius. But he got in because of his age, and his keen legal mind was just a bonus. I mean, part of the whole need to trot out ‘he just got in because of x’ serves to diminish that persons’ capabilities, right, and Roberts would not have gotten where he is today if not for the decades of patronage by conservative catholic groups looking to get one of their own (again) into the upper echelons of government law. Hard work and talent were nice, but it was straight affirmative action that put him in position to even think about being nominated and if he was 10 years older he never would have gotten it. I will never be convinced otherwise (file this under ‘Winslow Conspiracies’).

            Still, what criteria do you guys have for selecting a SCOTUS? I mean, after a certain level, are the candidates all basically the same and you just choose someone you happen to agree with? As much as I wish another Marshall were just lying around (whichever one you like most), they are all the same to me outside of ideology.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: