The crises occurs because each political party wants to stack the court with jurists they feel will be sympathetic to their positions. But unlike elected people in congress or the president, no one can predict when an opening will occur on the court. We know the president may be changed every four years, senators every six, etc. Once a justice is chosen for the court, they remain there for life or unless they voluntarily retire.
Here’s my proposal: Congress should change the law and require justices to retire at age 70—or in line with our aging yet healthy population—age 75. This change would have several advantages to fix the Supreme Court.
- Both Republicans and Democrats would know exactly when a justice’s term is done. There would be time for the parties to prepare candidates for the court on a regular basis.
- Both parties know the court will change regularly as the justices are forced to retire. So, there will be an automatic rotation of new people coming onto the bench and less catastrophic crises.
- Even though people are living longer and can retain their physical and mental health, it does get more difficult for older people to stay sharp. By forcing younger people onto the court, we can be assured they’re competent. This could help to fix the Supreme Court.
- Many state courts have a mandatory retirement age of 70. Some state court judges have even gone to the U.S Supreme Court to argue this is wrong. The Supreme Court ruled that a mandatory retirement age was constitutional. Why not apply that to the U.S. Supreme Court itself?
- Right now, presidents get the opportunity to add many people to the Supreme Court. With mandatory retirement, presidents would get several choices. This would fix the Supreme Court by giving both political parties many candidates to rotate on and off the court.
- It would give fresh, new people and ideas a chance to be on the court. Now, many of the justices serve for decades and never change their ideas in any significant way.
If you want to read more about the idea, here’s a good article from “Fix the Court.” It’s a little older, so some of the people they refer to have already gone on the court, or not.