The United States is the only democracy that grants lifetime appointments to the highest court of the land, and it’s a supreme disappointment.
The lack of term limits for Supreme Court justices creates inconsistencies in the appointment process as it’s essentially based on two factors: presidential elections and the lifespan of sitting justices.
For example, New York Times columnist David Leonhardt pointed out that, “Jimmy Carter was unable to make a single nomination to the court because no justice died or retired during his four-year presidency. Richard Nixon filled four seats during his five-and-a-half years as president.”
Though the lack of term limits for Supreme Court justices was originally intended to shelter the court from partisan influence, it has become apparent that this is no longer possible as Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the court despite his aggression toward Democratic senators during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings.
While addressing Democratic senators in his opening statement, Kavanaugh went as far to say, “No one can question your effort, but your coordinated and well-funded effort to destroy my good name and to destroy my family will not drive me out.”
He even referred to the sexual assault accusations against him as a “political hit” being orchestrated “on behalf of the Clintons.”
Kavanaugh’s claim that Democrats “coordinated” efforts to “destroy” his name and family should have been enough evidence alone to prove him incapable of staying nonpartisan and prevent his confirmation, but apparently it wasn’t.
But let’s get one thing clear – Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation was not a coordinated political stunt carried out as revenge for the Clintons. In Blasey’s own words, it was her “civic duty” to inform Congress that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in high school, deeming him an unqualified nominee for the Supreme Court.
Despite her chilling testimony, 50 senators voted to confirm Kavanaugh to the highest court of our land, and he is expected to fill his seat for at least three decades.
Prior to Mitch McConnell’s erasure of the Senate Filibuster in 2017, Supreme Court nominee confirmations required 60 votes to move forward, but now it only requires 50 votes. This eliminated a system which checked and prevented unqualified nominees from confirmation.
Leonhardt suggested, “staggered 18-year terms on the court, with each four-year presidential term automatically bringing two appointments. Such a system would be more consistent with democratic principles.”
Though it would take a constitutional amendment to implement term limits to the Supreme Court, the task at hand is not impossible and is worth a shot, considering everything that is at stake.