It seems absurd (and rather creepy) that no matter how many millions of Americans may disagree with a Supreme Court Justice or just not care for them personally, we often have to wait for them to die to see a new face on the bench. In many ways, justices wield more power than presidents. Conceivably, Justice Amy Coney Barrett could still be deciding cases when my 7-year-old daughter is 57 in 2072.
And we the people really have no say in this. We are told that every four years we get to elect the president who will appoint these justices but that is merely a glib evasion, and wrong. When Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016, President Barack Obama should have appointed his successor, but Sen. Mitch McConnell denied him (and us) that right. The reasoning that Mitch (Machiavelli) McConnell provided was that the voters of 2016 should decide his replacement not the voters of 2012 — reasoning that even he was no longer interested in after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died in September 2020 and he and his cronies rushed Amy Coney Barrett to the court faster than a Kentucky whiskey run.
At this point, conservatives are rolling their eyes and complaining about my woke liberal grievances or something like that. But here’s the thing, those three conservative justices packed onto the court from 2017-2021 weren’t even put there by Trump. They were put there by the Federalist Society. The Federalist Society gave Trump his list of nominees, and with all their money and power he had to comply. Is the Federalist Society an elected body? Most certainly not. Why should a special-interest group wield the kind of power that lasts lifetimes, power that has sullied the court?
In 2022, the view that the court is anything other than just another partisan branch of our federal government is hopelessly naive. When they expand gun rights, six conservatives vote yes and three liberals vote no. When they force states to fund parochial schools, six conservatives vote yes and three liberals vote no. Even before the medieval abortion decision shattered the nation, it had all the leaked documents and palace intrigue of a campaign party at the Trump White House. At this point, is there really that much difference between Samuel Alito and Ted Cruz?
A recent poll claims that only 25% of Americans have confidence in the Supreme Court. Maybe this is why Justice Coney Barrett was so desperate last year to claim that the Supreme Court is not partisan. Unfortunately, she chose to make this Solomonic pronouncement at the University of Louisville’s McConnell Center. The Federalist Society Pavilion must have been booked that night.
It is past time to reform the court and restore Americans’ faith in it. A lifetime appointment is problematic even in a highly functional republic and ours is, well. … Instead, I propose 18-year terms that end every 2 years, with current justices leaving sequentially based on their date of appointment. Thus, Justice Clarence Thomas would be the first to go in 2023, then John Roberts in 2025, etc. The chaos inflicted upon the country every time one of these robed benchwarmers dies or decides to retire has become horrific. We must restore order by setting term limits.
This is just one proposal. There are many others out there to also consider. Rest assured, the Supreme Court of 2022 is a thoroughly political institution. We must start treating it like one.