Court reform craze is sweeping American politics. Rather than the political lightning rod that is court packing, we support an 18-year term limit for future Supreme Court justices. Here are the latest updates from FTC and court reform discussions around the country.
More than 60 legal experts join the campaign for Supreme Court term limits
The Campaign for Supreme Court Term Limits kicked into high-gear with the release of an open letter addressed to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees and 2020 presidential campaigns urging them to support ending life tenure for SCOTUS justices.
The letter is signed by some of the most prominent legal minds in the U.S., including former Sen. Ted Kaufman, Harvard’s Laurence Tribe and Larry Lessig, Yale’s Bruce Ackerman, and American Enterprise Institute’s Norm Ornstein. Here’s what Sen. Kaufman had to say about why he supports Supreme Court term limits:
“It would be a positive change if presidents stopped appointing young justices just so they may serve lengthy terms on the Supreme Court. And it is not wise to have major issues that may require new approaches left in the hands of justices who have lived in the cloistered life of the court for decades. That is why I am in favor of limiting justices’ tenures.”
Legislators in Congress are already considering policies to end life tenure. Four notable examples include Sens. Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Chris Coons and John Kennedy, who sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee. They’re joined by Sens. Bernie Sanders, Kirsten Gillibrand and Michael Bennet.
Don’t forget: SCOTUS term limits are constitutional and wouldn’t require a constitutional amendment to implement.
New poll: 77% of likely voters support ending life tenure for SCOTUS justices
More than three in four likely voters (77% support vs. 23% oppose) support ending life tenure for Supreme Court justices, according to a recent poll conducted by PSB for Fix the Court.
The results also indicate Supreme Court term limits is one of the rare policy areas that voters agree on regardless of party affiliation: 84% of self-identified Democrats, 73% of self-identified Republicans, and 76% of self-identified Independents said they would support term restrictions.
As reported by Law360, the overwhelming support for term limits demonstrated by the poll stands in sharp contrast to the limited support voters expressed for adding justices to the Supreme Court (known as “court packing”). Among self-identified Democrats, 18-year term limits were preferred to adding additional justices to counterbalance those picked by President Trump (33% prefer term limits vs. 21% prefer adding justices).
NYT’s Carl Huse: Has the court become hopelessly partisan?
In a column recently published in The New York Times, chief Washington Correspondent Carl Huse makes the case for court reform by highlighting one of the central arguments for SCOTUS term limits: the Supreme Court has become so politicized that the justices are at risk of becoming mere politicians in robes in the eyes of most Americans.
Can you guess what court reform proposal Hulse puts at the top of his list? Yep, it’s term limits.
“The justices like to say they don’t wear party identification on their robes. But the party label of the president who made the nomination is becoming a dependable indicator of how a Supreme Court justice will rule. And that is particularly clear in the major cases arising out of the political and cultural divisions of the moment. […] One widely discussed idea would be to abolish lifetime tenure and establish term limits for justices, to dilute the influence of any individual president.”
Court packing proposals spark backlash in Congress
While legal experts and voters across the political spectrum voice support for term limits, the other court reform proposal that has grabbed headlines lately – packing the court – continues to be a partisan wedge. In June, Senator Marco Rubio “doubled down” on urging his colleagues to support a constitutional amendment that would limit the number of SCOTUS justices to nine. This is the same Rubio who proposed ending life tenure for justices when he ran for president last cycle. If he’s truly interested in reforming the court for the better, Rubio should ditch his plan to cap the number of justices and stick with term limits instead.
Stay tuned for additional updates from Fix the Court and don’t hesitate to reach out with questions or if you’re working on a story related to court reform.