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Topics Homepage> U.S. Supreme Court judges should have term limits

U.S. Supreme Court judges should have term limits

PRO (9 assertions)

The Plan:

Supreme Court justices will retain lifetime appointments, but not to the high court.

Reasoning: Every president will have the opportunity to appoint a Supreme Court justice every two years, instead of some getting 4 and some getting 0. This will both support continuity from election to election and will keep things in sync with the legislature's election cycle without creating the hassle of a vacancy.

Reasoning 2: Justices will retain their jobs but instead of retiring, they would have the option to serve as senior justices on the circuit and appeals courts, similar to the original circuit-riding judges.

1. Assertion: It is recognized and supported by over 250 nationwide legal scholars

Reasoning: Cornell's Roger Cramton and Duke's Paul Carrington co-authored a nonpartisan proposal written about in the New York Times, USA Today, and the National Law Journal. The Supreme Court Renewal act has to this date gathered over 250 signatures among legal scholars from liberal and conservative backgrounds, and has been published in Duke's law journal.

Evidence: The Supreme Court Renewal Act of 2005

2. Assertion: There will be no hassle of creating a constitutional amendment

Reasoning: The process will be made exponentially simpler by the fact that Congress will only have to rewrite what constitutes the office of Supreme Court justice instead of amending the Constitution. This will save time, money, and will help society with almost no waste.

Evidence: There is already a clause defining the office of Supreme Court justice—This change can only improve the situation.

3. Assertion: Term limits are necessary

Reasoning: From 1789-1970, the average justice served for around 16 years and retired at age 68. Since 1970, the average tenure has risen to 25.5 and the average exiting age is 79. In addition, vacancies are becoming much less frequent, with no one stepping down for a ten-year stretch. Historically, almost all justices completed almost 360 cases per year. Today, less than 80 are being ruled upon because of political motivation and backup.

Reasoning 2: The justices will not be left without a job, nor will they even change their profession. Under our simpler, refined system, after serving a successful 18-year term, justices will be given the option to retire or serve on a circuit court. The system is fair and there will be no political bias because in addition to being backed by the president and senate, every justice will be balanced against 8 others of which at least 7 have been elected by a different president.

Evidence: January 2005 Cornell News Article

4. Assertion: Our proposed system will put America, instead of political alliances, first

Reasoning: Appointments to the high court have become much more political, and hotly contested, with often unbalanced results such as one president getting to appoint as many as three justices while another appoints none, and with justices timing their retirements based on which political party the president is. Furthermore, presidents from both parties have an incentive to appoint very young justices, to ensure that their parties' views are reflected in court rulings for years to come. That practice may mean that appointees are untested and inexperienced, said Cramton.

Reasoning 2: The justices will not be left without a job, nor will they even change their profession. Under our simpler, refined system, after serving a successful 18-year term, justices will be given the option to retire or serve on a circuit court. The system is fair and there will be no political bias because in addition to being backed by the president and senate, every justice will be balanced against 8 others of which at least 7 have been elected by a different president.

Evidence: January 2005 Cornell Newsletter


Assertions #5, 6, 7, 8, 9

CON (5 assertions)

Rebuttal To: Judges are old and stuff…

Assertion: Making term limits won’t change any thing like mental judges or incapable people. My opponents defined it as __ years. But what if the judge who’s elected turns crazy after his first year? He’ll still have __ many years to judge. It won’t make a difference. And, also, why invent a whole new system, get 2/3 of all the states to vote and ratify it, spend lots of time, effort, and money on implementing a new system, checking if it’s Constitutional, and all that when we could just strengthen impeachment laws and solve all the same problems and even more. The answer to old judges or mentally incapable judges isn’t term limits: it’s toughening our impeachment laws. And this would be a quick and easy to the lengthily alternative the PRO is talking about.

 

Rebuttal To: It won’t be hard to create a new system.

Assertion: Making term limits would be easy, save for the fact that the Supreme Court Justices that would normally decide the case would have a conflict of interest, legally stopping them from deciding on the new law. This would create even more backup than there already is and would obviously not work in the United States.

1. Assertion: Judges always act fair

Reasoning: Regardless of whether the entire Supreme Court is composed of Republicans or Democrats, they are still forced to always act fair. Because they are forced to act fair, they can’t sway the people’s judgment a certain way and they can’t urge voters to pick a certain person or side.

Evidence: Judges must follow the ethical standards set out in the Code of Conduct for United States Judges, which contains guidelines to make sure a judge does not preside over a case in which he or she has any reason to favor one side over the other. For example, a judge must withdraw or excuse himself or herself from any case in which a close relative is a party, or in which he or she has any financial interest, however remote. Judges are required to file a financial disclosure form annually, so that all their stock holdings, board memberships, and other financial interests are on public record. They must be careful not to do anything that might cause people to think they would favor one side in a case over another. For this reason, they can’t give speeches urging voters to pick one candidate over another for public office or ask people to contribute money to civic organizations. Judges without life tenure are also subject to the Code of Conduct for United States Judges.

Source: Federal Judicial Center

2. Assertion: The court is not always unbalanced

Reasoning: Term limits are meant to retain balance within the Supreme Court. However, that issue is already solved without the limits. Since the limits are truly meant to combat this purpose and there is no need for them, they are faulty.

Evidence: As of the October 2010 term of the Court, the Court consists of five justices appointed by Republican Presidents, and four appointed by Democratic Presidents. It is popularly accepted that Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito comprise the Court's conservative wing. Justices Ginsburg, Kagan, Breyer are generally thought of as the Court's liberal wing; after one term on the Court, Justice Sotomayor is also seen as a member of the liberal wing. Judge Clarence Thomas is called the swing voter.

Source: Cornell University Law School

3. Assertion: The situation is not dire enough to change the Constitution

Reasoning: The problem isn’t so serious that it’s causing massive law problems that all of us hear about every single day of our lives in the United States. It’s simply not important enough to go through all the labor of speaking to Congress, making them tack on to the Constitution, and suck up a bunch of time that we could be using to do other things.

“For the most part the problem is an exaggerated one,” said University of Georgia political science professor Richard Vining. “The situation is not severe enough to merit changing the Constitution.”

Evidence: As of 2010, only one person in the history of our entire nation has been impeached. This shows that U.S. Supreme Court Justices do not make mistakes and do not take advantage of their power concerning that in our entire nation’s history, only one justice has been voted out of office.

4. Assertion: A court with term limits would be constantly shifting

Reasoning: The job of the Supreme Court is to decide whether laws and decisions made in the United States are constitutional. If we have a court with term limits, judges would constantly be leaving their seat vacant and a new President would appoint people of his party. This can become a tremendous shift in political views, which would totally change the views of Constitutional ideas.

Source: ABC News


Assertions #5