Will Democrats talk SCOTUS on the debate stage…ever?
We’re 0-4 so far on Democratic debates that include a serious discussion on the future of the U.S. Supreme Court. Will Thursday make it 0-5 or will Democrats take the time to discuss solutions to solving problems with our nation’s highest court?
The Supreme Court got a mere passing reference and not one full question over nearly 12 hours of 2020 Democratic primary debates this summer. Flashback to 2016 and Republicans were trying to out-do each other with their commitments to a conservative Supreme Court.
Fix the Court has reached out to each presidential campaign — Republicans and Democrats — to encourage candidates to rethink lifetime tenure and, in doing so, help restore trust in and decrease partisanship at the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, in Mass. – Rep. Joe Kennedy endorses Supreme Court term limits
Speaking to WBZ-TV in Boston, Congressman Joe Kennedy endorsed ending life tenure and introducing 18-year fixed terms for Supreme Court justices. Under the 18-year term plan — also supported and promoted by Fix the Court — every president would get two nominations. Regularizing the appointment process through term limits would help put an end to the toxic partisan warfare that now envelopes every nomination to the court.
“We are at a point now where we’ve got to even take it a step even further and look not just at the presidential system, which is the electoral college; not just at the legislative system, which is the filibuster; but also at the judicial system. We need to look at term limits for Supreme Court judges so you take the temperature that is elevated every time there is a confirmation – you take that temperature down. The fact is our system is not working.”
Early State Update: Nevada legal scholar backs ending life tenure
University of Nevada Las Vegas constitutional law professor Thomas McAffee penned an op-ed in the Las Vegas Review-Journal reacting to former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s statement in support of ending life tenure for Supreme Court justices. Professor McAffee writes:
“It’s clear to Reid and to countless Americans that we need to move away from a system where political ideology is the most crucial factor in deciding Supreme Court appointments. Ending life tenure would reduce the power of our top judges so that the resolution of political questions would once again become the charge of our political branches and not a group of unelected judges appointed some 30 years ago by a bygone generation.”
Professor McAffee was one of more than 60 legal scholars from across the political spectrum who recently signed an open letter to members of Congress and 2020 presidential candidates voicing support for ending life tenure for justices. He was joined by former Senator Ted Kaufman (D-DE) as well as Harvard’s Laurence Tribe and Larry Lesig, among others.
Term limits are popular on both sides of the aisle (77% of likely voters support it), because it’s a solution to the court’s current problems that doesn’t benefit one side over the other and ensures justices don’t become mere politicians in robes.
In the other early primary state of Iowa, Gabe Roth spoke with Iowa Starting Line about term limits: “How to Ease the Worry About SCOTUS Health Scares”
‘They Clearly Need to Step Up’: Advocates urge candidates to talk SCOTUS reform
Fix the Court isn’t the only group encouraging more discussion of court reform. Liberal advocacy groups are also urging 2020 Democratic presidential candidates to focus more on the judiciary on the campaign trail, reports Tessa Berenson at TIME, while conservative advocacy groups continue their offensive on the issue virtually unopposed.
Berenson notes what Fix the Court has long said: While numerous 2020 hopefuls have touched on court reform proposals, a wide gulf remains between how Republicans treated the issue in 2015/2016 vs. Democrats in 2019.
Washington Post: “When do Supreme Court justices retire? When the politics are right.”
In an op-ed for the Washington Post, Scott Lemieux responded to the latest health scare for a sitting justice by reminding readers why the status quo is so problematic. Term limits would help ensure justices no longer have the incentive to wait until a like-minded president is in office to retire.
“Justices should serve fixed, nonrenewable terms, rather than having to make a decision about when the most appropriate time to step down should be; some presidents should not get a disproportionate impact on the constitutional development of the country through the vagaries of chance. In 2013 and 2014, Ginsburg and Breyer were faced with a dilemma they never should have had to deal with in the first place. And now that they’ve made their choice, their fellow liberals will have to wait anxiously, one health scare at a time, until the political ground shifts again.”