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Bench for life: Term limits needed for Supreme Court justices

by Saloni Shah, Columnist and Assistant Humans of Harker Editor

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Monarchs rule for life and so do Supreme Court Justices. The ongoing drama and intense scrutiny surrounding the Senate Judiciary hearing on Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court has resurfaced the question as to whether there should there be a term limit for the Supreme Court justices.

This is probably one of the few offices in the world where you are guaranteed work for life. In the recent years, the average number of years a judge has served in office has gone up from 16 to 26. With younger judges now serving for almost three decades, the appointment to the highest court in the country has become a high stakes affair. 61% of the registered voters expressed support for a term limit on Supreme Court Justices according to National Tracking Poll #180724 conducted in July 2018.

America is the only democracy in the world which grants the federal judges lifetime tenure to their offices. The Supreme Court justices are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. This process differs significantly from other major democracies in the world. In the United Kingdom, Judges of the Supreme Court are appointed by The Queen on the recommendation by a special selection commission and are required to retire by the age of 70 while in India the Supreme Court justices are appointed by the President based on the recommendations of a committee comprised of the Chief Justice of India and five senior judges of the court with a retirement age of 65.

The Supreme Court of the U.S. decides on the interpretation of the written Constitution. With the lifetime appointment, the framers of the Constitution wanted to ensure that the judiciary branch would remain independent of the legislative and executive branches. But I think the intention to keep the judges free of re-election pressure and the need for popular votes has long been lost.

Our founding fathers must be anguished at the current state of the political affairs where an empty supreme court seat was used as a 2016 election tool by both the parties and the nomination process of Judge Kavanaugh became a further display of partisan divide.

The citizens watched Judge Kavanaugh officially appointed as the 114th Supreme Court justice for life in an emotional, controversial, and partisan process by a 50-48 vote.

The appointment of Supreme Court justices will continue to remain a contentious issue in the near future, since any changes to the Constitution have to be approved by the Congress and ratified by ¾ of the States.

This is a daunting task. Yet I hope that by some miracle, we can set term limits and a mandatory retirement age for the Supreme Court justices to restore integrity to this highly privileged position.

This piece was originally published in the pages of The Winged Post on Oct. 17, 2018.

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Bench for life: Term limits needed for Supreme Court justices