Supreme Court Reforms

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In the case of reforms of the Supreme Court, I suppose that an update is necessary to adjust to the modern world. Over the past couple of decades, nominations over the high court have increasingly become more political. According to Article II of the Constitution, Supreme Court justices must be nominated by the President and approved by the Senate.

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But many more factors contribute to this process nowadays including interest groups, public opinion, and the media. This change could be explained by the increased access to daily news the public did not always have (TV, Internet, Smartphones, etc.). The greater influence of the public can affect the appointments of the high courts. Greater home-state public support does significantly and strikingly increase the probability that a senator will vote to approve a nominee, even controlling for other predictors of roll-call voting. These results establish a systematic and powerful link between constituency opinion and voting on Supreme Court nominees. This leads to more of a majoritarian type of judicial system rather than representation. I do not think the Framers could have predicted such an influx of influence outside of the Executive and Legislative branches. Therefore, reforms would only make sense to implement into the Judicial Branch.

The first reform I would input is an increase of the number of justices in the Supreme Court. Reason being is because the now larger population of the US needs a larger Supreme Court. The Judiciary Act of 1869 called for a Chief Justice and eight associate Justices to serve in the Supreme Court back when the population of the United States was shy of 32,000,000. Now the population of the US is approximately ten times greater than it was in 1869. Increasing the number of associate Justices by at least 50% would perhaps delegate the workload a little better. Afterall, the volume of cases in 1869 was a lot lower than the volume of cases today.

Next, I would implement an eighteen-year term limit for all court Justices. This would eliminate or reduce most of the major forms of strategic behavior that flow from the current life tenure arrangements. A President no longer would have an incentive to appoint younger Justices and would feel free to appoint a more qualified older lawyer or judge whose age and health would suffice to complete the fixed term of years. Additionally, an eighteen-year term limit would give each President a fair two nominations per term. No President would be able to nominate a majority of the Supreme Court. Furthermore, life expectancy back when the Framers amended the Constitution was a lot shorter than it is today. This statistic means that Court Justices are serving longer terms than they were back in 1787. I’d say longer terms are too long.

The main barrier preventing these reforms from happening is in the Constitution. Article III Section 2 states that the Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services, a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office. The Constitution does not mention anything about term or age limits. Therefore, Congress would have to amend the Constitution to make Judicial term and age limits possible. Amending the Constitution is hard as it is being that a proposal needs to be approved by the majority of the House and the Senate or the State legislatures and then signed by the President to become an amendment. This process has never actually happened before. Of course, the amendments that have been passed before took an alternative route rather than going through the approval of the Executive branch.

To counter-argue against my previous ideas, the Constitution provides many obstacles for a nominee to become a Supreme Court Justice. These obstacles include a nomination by the President and approval of the Senate. Obviously, any nominee is carefully picked, and any Justice is carefully examined by two branches before becoming a Judge. With the knowledge that the high court of the Judicial branch has no term or age limits, the Executive and Legislative branches must strictly choose who is fit for the job. With that being said, all of the Justices of the Supreme Court were chosen for a reason. They must be in it for the long run. I believe that the reason why the Framers did not implement term or age limits into Article III of the Constitution is because a Justice must be experienced for the position. Afterall, the Judicial branch is seen as the last line of defense against laws that could infringe upon the fundamental rights of Americans and take up issues that the other two branches can’t or won’t. For example, the Constitutional Court decides whether a President is guilty of a crime of which he is charged. If he is found guilty, he is removed from power. The Judicial Branch has the final say. Therefore, reforms may not be necessary from this aspect.

The idea of limited terms came more in focus after the right-wing’s takeover of the Judicial system with the last nomination of President Donald J. Trump, Judge Brett Kavanaugh. When it comes to Supreme Court nominations, it seems more like a war between the two political parties each acting in what they may think is best for the nation even if their ideas may seem to contradict with our Constitution, instead of referring to what the Constitution that protects the people dictates. For this matter, many people are angered with the system and looking for ways to reform our Supreme Court. However, I believe we can make a Judicial system more directly in touch with the people instead of the two main political parties.

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