Mike: Tell Me I’m Wrong! The Supreme Court is too old and we need term limits now

Oct 29, 2019, 6:02 AM
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, filibuster...
United States Supreme Court (Front L-R) Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John Roberts, Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice Samuel Alito, Jr., (Back L-R) Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice Elena Kagan and Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh pose for their official portrait. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Since the country began, we’ve had 15 presidents who call themselves Democrats and 19 who call themselves Republicans. It’s a split, a shift of the power center we all should be proud of. (And yeah, there were other political parties in the presidency. That’s why the math doesn’t come out to 45.)

We made this idea, this shift into law in our Constitution with term limits on the presidency. But while that limit on power centralization does work, it’s out of step with where power actually has moved.

The U.S. Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court of the United States is, if you didn’t know, a lifetime appointment. If you are a 50-year-old male, the odds are you are likely to be dead before Neil Gorsuch leaves his seat on the Supreme Court.

Justices are staying in the job longer than ever and we should be alarmed. It’s not just me who thinks this way; Thomas Jefferson wrote that we “erred” as a country with lifetime Supreme Court appointments. Both conservative and liberal legal scholars have been saying the same thing for years.

Ask yourself this: why should we have endured segregation advocate, Mr. Separate but equal Henry Billings Brown for a generation? Why did we spend a lifetime with justices who didn’t think women were full citizens with a legal right to vote? What about the decades with justices who didn’t think people should have rights against government search and seizure?

We have endured that. The drunks. The corrupt. The bigots. The lazy. And, to be fair, we’ve benefited from geniuses, too.

The country’s attitude and sensibilities change over time. But the Court does not change in the same way. It has been called the most powerful and least accountable branch of government.

The Solution

The solution is 12- or 16- or 18-year appointments. Simple. We still get the prime of a legal scholar’s working life and we still get an independent appointment that outlasts a single presidency. But we don’t get justices hanging on a decade past their due date to give the next president the appointment.

Better still, we don’t get an acid bath that is the confirmation process because the stakes are lower. Even the Catholic Church favors older popes so no one stays in the top job too long.

There were great reasons for the founders to implement lifetime appointment. But lifetime now means something longer, deeper, and more powerful than it ever has.

The Supreme Court is supposedly the nation’s conscience, not its storage locker of out-of-date ideas, attitudes, and lawyers.

Tell me I’m wrong.

“Tell Me I’m Wrong” airs every day on the Candy, Mike and Todd Show at 3:30. The Candy, Mike and Todd Show airs every weekday afternoon from 3-7 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Mike: Tell Me I’m Wrong! The Supreme Court is too old and we need term limits now