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David Fagin

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Supreme Court "Injustices": Why Term Limits Are Absolutely Necessary for Our Nation's Court

Posted: 07/10/2012 11:29 am

Let's face it. The thought of Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia presiding over us for the next decade -- if not longer -- and doing their "right" best to reverse course and halt our progress as we try to move forward as a nation, should send shivers up any reasonably intelligent person's spine.

Granted, Chief Justice, John Roberts (a conservative), recently sided with the liberals on immigration, and, most importantly, health care. But, with all the talk surrounding the possible motivation behind Roberts' decision -- the least popular option being he believed it was best for the American people -- it doesn't exactly breed confidence in the judiciary.

Looking at the big picture, whether or not Roberts is for or against health care is practically irrelevant. The fact that the presumption exists he voted with the liberals to "preserve the integrity of the Court," and not because he felt it was the right thing to do for the American people, is a pretty scary thought.

We have a chamber full of "lifetime appointees" who've sided along party lines for so long, and in so many recent crucial decisions (Bush v. Gore, Citizen's United, Montana's campaign laws, etc.), they're actually in danger of turning the once-respected court into nothing more than a bunch of "Court Jesters." Presently, there's such fierce dissenting and infighting amongst the judges themselves, would anyone be surprised if they all were summoned before Judge Judy?

"Justice Scalia, you put gum on the seat of Justice Sotomayor. You owe her $685.14 for a new robe."

On the liberal side, the fact that Justice Ginsberg hasn't retired during Obama's current term makes things even more precarious. If Romney wins, and, five days later, Ginsberg decides she's had enough, that means a 6-3 conservative majority on abortion, gay marriage, etc. And, we didn't think things could get any worse.

The current approval rating of the Supreme Court is a measly 33 percent, up a bit from its all-time low of 28 percent just three months ago. In business, nothing screams A CHANGE IS NEEDED! like a low approval rating. If the Supreme Court were a publicly traded company, its largest shareholders would be leaping out windows as we speak.

Maybe that's the answer? Make Congress bet on the Court like Fantasy Baseball. The more money they lose, the more amenable they'll be to booting a few.

To put the whole "lifetime appointment" thing in perspective, try and remember, the folks whose idea it was to appoint Supreme Court justices for life had wooden teeth. This decision, made over 225 years ago when monarchies were the main form of government, was, for the most part, due to the fear that politics would play too much of a role if the judges had to worry about losing their jobs under the king. I wonder what they'd say today. Perhaps a slight revamp, Your Majesty?

Another, even more intriguing, but most-likely-doomed-to-failure, option is to do what Jonathan Turley, a professor of public interest law at G.W. suggests -- and that is follow the lead of our more advanced, overseas neighbors and appoint several dozen justices to the court.

Professor Turley points out Germany has 16 justices, Japan 15, Israel 15, and France uses 124 judges who are rotated. Either of these systems would be better than what we have now, and would, no doubt, dramatically cut down on the politics and power of our current system.

Turley also adds, there's nothing magic about the number nine. Our founding fathers didn't specify any number of justices, thus, if we, as a people, can threaten enough of our representatives with unemployment, they may be open to revisiting this way-too-out-of-date Constitutional provision. If they need a nostalgic opinion, simply present to them the words of Ben Franklin or George Mason, the orchestrator of the Bill of Rights: "Nothing is so essential to the preservation of a Republican government as a periodic rotation." (Insert Butthead laugh here.)

Whether you're for or against term limits, believe in increasing -- or decreasing -- the number of justices, or just feel we should leave everything alone, you have to agree; in today's incredibly fast-paced, technologically-driven society, it's a bit unnerving having nine, stuffy, old lawyers -- some of whom probably still have a subscription to T.V. Guide -- acting as the final word on future policy.

God forbid some bio-tech geek discovers the secret to immortality in the next five years. Video stores everywhere would have to move The Matrix into the non-fiction section.

 

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