The Right Coast

April 09, 2005
Term Limits for Supreme Court Justices
By Mike Rappaport

Steve Calabresi and Jim Lindgren argue for 18 year terms for Supreme Court Justices. I have long favored an amendment to the Constitution establishing such terms. Terms of 18 years would require Justices to step down every two years. That would promote a more regular appointment process, in which each President can has some influence on the Court. Most importantly, it would prevent the Justices from deciding when to retire based on the political leanings of the President in office -- an action which seems quite inconsistent with the independence from politics that Justices are supposed to have. Calabresi and Lindgren mention various other benefits of 18 year terms in their Wall Street Journal article, which is unfortunately not on line except for subscribers.

While the amendment would clearly be an improvement, unfortunately I don't think it would do much to solve the basic problem that we face in this area -- Justices who pursue their own views of the law rather than the original meaning of the Constitution and statutes.