Thursday, October 21, 2010

Supreme Court Term

In college I took a couple classes in constitutional law.  It was interesting to read old cases and study the reasoning used in making decisions.  I was amazed how many justices would make decisions that ran counter to their political views.  My favorite was Earl Warren in the Brown v The Board of Education case. 

I found it interesting because of the soul searching of  Chief Justice Earl Warren.  Warren was the former governor of California.  He was a middle of the road to conservative Republican.  Most though he would end up as Eisenhower's Vice President.  But, Ike picked Richard Nixon for the V.P. slot and promised a disappointed Warren an appointment to the bench later on.  Little did Ike know, that the first opening would be the position of Chief Justice.  The president tried to back out of his commitment, but eventually kept his word and made the appointed.

Eisenhower considered it the worse decision of his presidency.  Because Warren had a life time term, he made decisions without worrying  about politics.  This is how the system was suppose to work.  Boy have things change.  Now justices vote a long straight political lines.  The new strategy for appointments is to send justices to the Supreme Court at an early age and make damn sure  their political ideology  is aligned to the party  in power.  This way you know what you're getting (no Warren surprises) and you can count on them for 25 or 30 years.

I am now rethinking my view on the life time appointment.  I am not sure it produces the desired out come -- decisions base on the facts of law. I think there should be an age requirement and a fixed term.  When I am King, a justices will have to be at least 55 years old and will serve a term of 15 years.  Hopefully, there are still some prospective justices out there who are willing to follow their conscience and the law,  instead of an ideology.


  1. The problem with a limited term is that justices nearing the end of their term might be tempted to render opinions that would improve their chances of getting a specific job or appointment once their term is up. That's precisely why justices are appointed for life. A minimum age might still be a good idea, though.

  2. king mike, i think you have a good idea there, but alook at congress shows that des' objection is cogent too. in addition to a term limit, how about mandatory permanent retirement with a generous pension for outgoing elected and appointed officials? no lobbying, no think tanks, no corporate positions or board seats. a disincentive to seeking office? sure. but dying in combat is an even bigger disincentive to joining the military. it is expected that people will be patriotic enough to enlist anyway. why hold would-be politicians to a lower standard?