Time for judges to be "term-limited"?

Thousands of years ago, when those guys were writing the US Constitution, they intended for the judiciary to be a non-political branch, to the extent that was possible. At least I think that’s what they intended. They fixed it so the judges would be appointed, not elected. They forced the chief executive to get consent from elected representatives of the several states before he could appoint somebody, so he couldn’t just put his drinking buddies up there.

Since they weren’t elected, it was very important that judicial appointments be filled with serious people who could do their jobs without referring to their own political opinions. They had to follow the law as written, and the Constitution, period. Sure, the political branches of government could always be taken over by one party, who might try to impose their cruel whims on the minority. But not the judiciary. They were supposed to be immune to that kind of crap.

But once you found people like that, and installed them on the bench, you were pretty much done. You could count on them to rule in an apolitical, unbiased way for the rest of their lives. After all, if their only source material is the law and the Constitution, why worry that they’ll be compromised by such base concerns as public opinion, or their own ambitions? And the public can always be confident that they’ll be fair, right? Why bother rotating them out of the position unless they died?

It would be really nice if things worked the way they were supposed to, and the judiciary remained above all the political stuff. But that’s over. There are now competing interpretations of the Constitution, aligned purely with politics. There are “liberal judges” and “conservative judges.” There are people eligible to be appointed to the bench by Republican presidents, and people eligible to be appointed to the bench by Democratic presidents. There are “swing justices.”

Swing justices? If George Washington were alive today, you know what he would say? “What the fuck is a swing justice?

So, now that the “apolitical judiciary” ship has sailed away never to return, is it time to appoint judges for predetermined periods, rather than lifetimes?

Let’s say the new term is ten years. We could do it in the same amendment where we get rid of the Electoral College.

I don’t like this idea, because it’s doubling down on the “Red America vs. Blue America” style of running the country. But if we’re doing that anyway, term-limited judgeships is a concept more consistent with that philosophy. Fight me.

Advocacy for this idea among Dopers seems to have risen dramatically during the administration of President Trump. It appears more than a little self-serving. I’ll be voting “no” on your amendment.

And you’ll still vote ‘no’ during the next Democratic administration? Or are you assuming that the current court will rule Democratic presidents unconstitutional, and you’ll never have to worry about it?

“Yes” to the first and “no” to the second.

Okay, but is that because (a) you don’t believe the judiciary is overly politicized, contrary to what the founders intended, (b) you don’t feel that lifetime appointments to political positions is a problem, or © something else?

back in 1776 the idea of someone living to late 80s was pretty rare. and if they did live that long they were probably in bad health.

the odds of this change happening are zero anytime soon. they are more likely to declare Trump president for life.

Where I live (in Michigan), I don’t know if they are term limited. But they are elected. Even the Michigan Supreme Court. The difference? Nothing, much at least.

The Republican party dominates every part of at least statewide politics. And so they dominate the courts too.


There is like a 58% bipartisan support for term limits for judges. I can’t imagine why anyone would be against it. It benefits both sides by assuring the Judicial branch is reflective of the current President.

Also, were the only country in the civilized world that still gives lifetime appointments.

It’s “over”? Did it ever work that way?

on the state level many judges are elected , even for local judges. Some states limit them to age such as 70 or 75 even if they are elected.

This isn’t directed at you, but this is an illustration of why the judiciary has gone so wrong. The solution is to appoint conservative justices so that the “blue” side actually has to convince the voters to implement their policies instead of having nine lawyers do it for them.

And, further, nine lawyers doing it for them is just fine when they can get five and have Roe, Casey and Obergefell. It is only now that they fear terribly, so terribly, that they cannot get five, the Court has to be dramatically changed. After Obergefell, I did not hearing one single liberal saying there was an issue with the method in which Justices were selected. Now that it is 5-4 conservative? Pack the Court! Change the process! We cannot win our positions at the voting booth, so we need our liberal Justices! We will do anything!!

Your proposal would remove any pretense of judges being judges and we might as well just get rid of Congress and submit all proposals to these nine.

A bit of (b), but mostly © I don’t think term limits would make the judiciary any significant degree less politicized.

Yeah, riiiiiiiight.

How much did you yell when the “nine lawyers” undid campaign finance laws with Citizens United? How about when they blocked (in much of the country) the Medicaid expansion that Congress had passed in NFIB v. Sibelius? How about when they undid part of the birth control mandate with Hobby Lobby?

I’m sure each and every one of those decisions outraged you.

I’m a liberal-leaning centrist, and I think it’s a bad idea.

Stability in judicial decisions is an under-appreciated feature of lifetime appointments. Yes, it’s bad when judges make bad decisions for political reasons.

But I contend that it would be worse if every few years we got totally new decisions for political reasons.

I agree. Earlier this was said:

And my immediate thought was that I don’t think “reflective of the current President” is a desirable characteristic of the judiciary. I want judges that follow the Constitution, regardless of who the president is. If we’re just going to turn them into a rubber stamp for the current administration, we might as well just get rid of them altogether.

10 appointments or whatever magic number sounds good to me. I’d like the Supremes to be closer in age and representation of the people they represent. Shouldn’t represent the President per say, as why have the separation of government, but I’d rather have justices closer to the median age of the country than to the geriatric set. And I say that as I’m pushing 60.

Something like a 20-year term might be reasonable. Still long enough for stability, and it reduces the tendency to try to appoint someone very young to the court to have a longer-lasting influence.

Out of curiosity, how did you feel about the idea when Jeb Bush was pushing it during the 2016 primaries?

I’m not a democrat and I’d vote yes. But mostly because I dislike our trend towards elderly justices and don’t think that we should keep people in their seats until they die or are obviously senile.

For SCOTUS this would be ideal with one term up every 2 years. A president could appoint at most 4 justices (barring death or retirement) and the low turnover would ensure consistency.