21 Oct 2020 Court Term Limits a Supremely Bad Idea
As liberals fear losing their grip on the U.S. Supreme Court after a confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, their most common “solution” seems to be to “pack the court” with more justices when they get the ability to make such appointments.
But Project 21 Co-Chairman Horace Cooper points out that a bipartisan consensus “recoil[s] at that idea.” It’s a strategy that was attempted by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1930s to protect his radical, unconstitutional policies, and it failed then. This has led to another idea: term limits for justices – with a suggestion of 18 years on the bench.
In a commentary syndicated by InsideSources, Horace pans the liberals’ Plan B:
Advocates for judicial term limits argue that such limits will reduce the rancor and bitterness of Supreme Court appointments. But the opposite is more likely.
He adds that the scheme would “threaten the independence of the judiciary, risk a more powerful, more political, more ambitious Court than we already have, and will likely make the problems that they seek to solve even worse.”
A Boston Globe editorial, published after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death ended her 27-year tenure, suggested that the nation would benefit from a judicial branch that was “reinvigorated and renewed more frequently.”
Horace’s response: “In fact, judicial term limits will likely heighten concerns of an over-politicized, all-powerful Court. And a ‘reinvigorated’ Court is not what the country wants or needs.”
Don’t just take Horace’s word for it. The Founding Fathers have his back on this assertion:
Alexander Hamilton explains that by making the tenure of federal judges permanent and not temporary, the Constitution ensures that the Court’s make-up will not be changed according to the political interests or whims of another branch of government. This was an essential part of the delicate balance of power divided among the three federal branches, and designed to keep the Court from becoming a political branch itself. Removing that essential part risks making the judiciary more dependent upon the political branches, encouraging even more political meddling by those branches, and ultimately risking that the Court will decide cases politically – that is, with one eye on the merits and the other eye on who may be leaving and joining the Court in the next term.
Horace notes that term limits would likely make the Court “more powerful and more political” because justices would be concerned about their future ambitions. They might leverage their rulings to create post-Court opportunities. And a more timely turnover could also create an environment in which potential nominees might campaign for appointments.
To be blunt, term limits would probably make the confirmation process even more contentious than it is currently:
Although the bare-knuckle brawls that we call Supreme Court confirmations have become at best tiresome political theater and at worst unfair trials by a kangaroo court, the fights arise relatively rarely and last only a few weeks. Making such appointments regularly and on a predetermined, biannual schedule will only call more attention to the Court more often, not less, and will make the inevitable political fisticuffs virtually never-ending, as one side or the other will always be preparing for a preordained confirmation fight.
Horace’s commentary – “Term Limits Will Make the Court More Politicized” – appeared in newspapers including the Kansas City Star, Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Bedford Gazette, Keene Sentinel and Miami Herald. To read it all at the website of the Columbia Daily Tribune, click here.
InsideSources syndicates to almost 300 newspapers nationwide with a readership of over 25 million people.