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SCOTUS and Term Limits

Few things are more of a reminder that the American system of government is an artifact of the 18th century than the lifetime appointment of Supreme Court justices.

While a structure that precludes the need to bow to reelection/reconfirmation pressure makes clear sense—the highest judges in the land shouldn’t be making electoral calculations alongside their legal reasonings—the lifetime appointment aspect saddles the nation with some real duds. Scalia, Alito and Thomas easily come to mind as dinosaurs who should be given a nice retirement cave somewhere with an appropriate number of babies to scare on a regular basis.

Here’s a simple solve: term limits.

There are nine members of the court, so let’s give them all 18 year terms. That means a new Justice will have to be appointed every two years, so every Presidential administration gets a minimum of two Justices to get through confirmations. This would also mean that every Presidential election was guaranteed to affect the makeup of the Court. Which would help clear up the stakes in those contests.

There would be, of course, the problem of what to do if one died in office before finishing out their term. That could be handled in a lot of different ways, and would make for an interesting debate.

READING: Cibola Burn, James S.A. Corey; Salt Sugar Fat, Michael Moss