WASHINGTON (December 3) – After Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s contentious confirmation, there were numerous cries among politicians and commentators for the need to lower the political temperature around Supreme Court nominations. Since then, one of the most prevalent reforms offered has been 18-year term limits for Supreme Court Justices.
In a new policy paper, R Street’s Anthony Marcum, governance research associate, argues that this is a bad idea, as they will offer far more peril than promise.
The author explains that even with term limits, vacancies will often remain random. Justices will not always complete their set terms and the term limits do nothing to prevent Senate machinations, such as purposefully delaying a confirmation vote. Term limits would also inextricably tie political campaigns to the fate of the Court, turning the judiciary into a highly-partisan topic in nearly every campaign. In addition, most justices would be given a myriad of opportunities after their terms, most which will offer high financial benefits. This will create unprecedented conflicts of interest for the Court and will surely increase public cynicism toward the judiciary.
The author adds: “If implemented, term limits would fail to guarantee a fair apportionment of judicial vacancies or quell the political flames surrounding the Court. Instead, it would only increase the political polarization of the judiciary and potentially create various conflicts of interest that would erode the public’s confidence [in the Court].”
Download the report here.