Warm Southern Breeze

"… there is no such thing as nothing."

Right and Left Wing Agree: Term Limit Supreme Court Justices

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Saturday, November 30, 2019

October 26, 2016; South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg

What if I told you that, as things now stand, there’s not a nickel’s worth of difference between the Democrats and Republicans?

Surveying the political landscape, the policy matters that invariably find their way into political discourse are eerily similar.

For example, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a candidate for the Democratic party’s presidential nominee, in an interview with Cosmopolitan magazine October 24, 2019, said of the Supreme Court that,

“Another approach would be to have term limits. You know, Supreme Court justices, they used to just retire like everybody else. But now, we have these strange scenarios of people clinging, almost seeming to cling on for dear life because they want to make sure that they leave the bench under the right presidency. And this would help deal with that issue. Someone suggested that we rotate judges on and off the appellate bench.”

Chief Justice John Roberts’ opinion from before he was on the SCOTUS was quoted in National Review November 24, 2019, that,

“Chief Justice John Roberts (appointed by George W. Bush) and Justice Stephen Breyer (appointed by Bill Clinton) have both indicated support for the idea. In a 1983 memo written when he served in the Reagan White House, Roberts wrote: “Setting a term of, say, 15 years would ensure that federal judges would not lose all touch with reality through decades of ivory tower existence.”

Superficially, one might say that “Mayor Pete,” as he’s known, and “Mr. Chief Justice,” as CJ Roberts is known, are two very different ideological partisans, and about as far apart philosophically as East is from West.

Official portrait of U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts.

But, I demur.

The Right and Left wing are both parts of the same bird.

The United States Constitution was written in 1787, and since then, all 50 states have rewritten their constitutions. Average tenure for the first 20 Supreme Court justices was 15 years, when life expectancy was closer to 40. In the past generation, that tenure now averages more than 26 years, and life expectancy is 84. According to a 2015 Reuters/Ipsos poll, 66% of Americans support a 10 year term limit for Supreme Court justices.

The Supreme Court is asked to hear between 7000 – 8000 cases annually, but now only hears about 80. U.S. population in 2019 is estimated at 330,072,915.

In 1980, the Supreme Court heard about 150 cases annually. U.S. population was 226,545,805.

In 1940, the Supreme Court heard 151 cases. U.S. population was 132,164,569.

Some have complained about a “Do Nothing Congress,” but what’s worse, is that We The People are also plagued with a “Do Nothing Supreme Court.”

Since 1940, our nation has nearly TRIPLED in size (population), the SCOTUS’ caseload is increased, and yet, they hear FEWER cases now, than either in 1980, or in 1940.

 

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