Every time Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg enters a hospital, speculation surfaces concerning her health and future. She is a cancer survivor who has occasionally missed oral arguments. But she isn’t about to step down because she (and other liberals) fear who would replace her.
But there may be a reasonable solution to how presidents appoint justices to the Supreme Court. Perhaps it is time to consider term limits for the Supreme Court. Even though that sounds controversial, this might actually be a solution that garners bipartisan support.
In a recent column, John Fund makes the case for term limits on the Supreme Court. When the Founding Fathers granted life tenure to Supreme Court justices, the average life expectancy was 38. Today, it is more than twice that. Some of the justices in the past certainly stayed past their “sell by” date.
He argues that the Constitution in Article III, Section 1 does say that judges shall hold their offices during good behavior. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they must serve for life. In fact, many federal judges retire on a fairly regular basis.
The reform group, Fix the Court, has come up with a bipartisan proposal for 18-year term limits for the Supreme Court. It would stagger the term so that a vacancy would come up every two years. That means every president could have two appointments in each term.
One poll found that six in ten registered voters favored Supreme Court term limits. Chief Justice John Roberts (appointed by George W. Bush) as well as Justice Stephen Breyer (appointed by Bill Clinton) have indicated support for the idea.
This is a proposal worth debating. It will provide a more orderly transition to the Supreme Court and possibly lower the heat in the current confirmation battles. I think this is one proposal that might actually attract bipartisan support.