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Speaking of the Founders...

It can't be pointed out often enough that lifetime tenure for Supreme Court justices no longer means what it once did and is now actively harmful to the nominations process.

By Ezra Klein  |  August 9, 2010; 9:29 AM ET
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"It can't be pointed out often enough that lifetime tenure for Supreme Court justices no longer means what it once did and is now actively harmful to the nominations process."

Possibly true, entirely irrelevant. We have trouble changing the senate rules, when all that really involves is enough senators agreeing to a rules change when the senate convenes. Here, you're essentially talking about a constitutional amendment. Even if there is a way to simply legislate the change, you're still not going to get enough agreement, as many will see it as a way to oust young liberals or conservatives when they might be the only thing standing in the way of years and years of future Republican or Democratic rule.

Lifetime Supreme Court appointments are here to stay.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | August 9, 2010 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Trying to figure out how to rid yourself of Roberts and Alito, Ezra?

Posted by: bgmma50 | August 9, 2010 10:07 AM | Report abuse

@bgmma50: If changed, the people currently appointed would have to be grandfathered in. I can't imagine a circumstance where those currently serving would not be allowed to serve out there existing terms--if for no other reason than a lawsuit would be filed to allow it, it would eventually be decided on by the Supreme Court . . .

And, even if not, I don't think anyone would want to advance the policy and seem to be constructing it specifically to remove sitting justices, which would not go over well.

However, it's never going to happen anyway. It's like saying the presidency would be a much better office if it were a benevolent (re: liberal) dictator, a common lament for benign fascism from the left, or was a committee of 3 people elected separately, or what have you. These fundamental structure things are not going to happen. It's almost impossible, right now, to advance even a modest rules change in the senate, which can ostensibly change the rules any way it please upon convening. The life time appointment to the Supreme Court has no chance, whatsoever, of changing.

You know what else would be awesome? Cars than ran on water from the water hose. You know, instead of gas. That's what talking about what a problem life time appointments to the Supreme Court are--like talking about how much better it would be if cars ran on tap water.

Well, yes, that makes sense, but it's not going to happen.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | August 9, 2010 10:19 AM | Report abuse

An independent federal judiciary (all federal judges have lifetime tenure, not just the Supreme Court) was the goal of lifetime tenure. The nominations process for the Supreme Court is indeed a farce, thanks largely to the borking precedent set by the Democrats, but it's still preferable to the politicizing of the entire judiciary.

However, since Constitutional amendments seem to be all the rage now, let's get it all before the voters...14th amendment, Article III, Section 1, heck to make Ezra happy we'll even throw in Article I, Section 3. I'll take my chances on the voters making the right decisions. :)

Posted by: bgmma50 | August 9, 2010 10:29 AM | Report abuse

"@bgmma50: If changed, the people currently appointed would have to be grandfathered in."

Kevin, now don't you be messing with Ezra's fantasies.

Posted by: bgmma50 | August 9, 2010 10:30 AM | Report abuse

There's always court packing a la FDR, Ezra.

Posted by: bgmma50 | August 9, 2010 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Canada's constitution imposes a fixed retirement age of 75 on Supreme Court justices. This clearly wouldn't fix the bias towards younger judges. But this bias isn't as evident in Canada, presumably because the Canadian Supreme Court selection process isn't as politicized, and the Court isn't as ideologically divided as the U.S. Court.

Posted by: zja1 | August 9, 2010 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Since the only way to change the lifetime appointment is by constitutional amendment, there's nothing in the amendment process that requires the new amendment to grandfather those previously appointed.

If I were setting the rules all appellate judges and justices would be given a 20-year appointment.

Posted by: david6 | August 9, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

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