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One Solution to Tame the Supreme Court Without Passing a Law or Constitutional Amendment


"It is irresponsible for one person to have such an extreme position of power for 50 years.”

Image source: AP

Asserting the Supreme Court has become too politicized, a group citing support from conservatives and liberals, is calling for future Supreme Court nominees to impose their own term limits.

Fix the Court, an organization that advocates transparency and disclosure requirements for Supreme Court justices, announced its “Come to Terms” initiative Wednesday, opening an online petition and seeking support from prominent figures to join their call for the next Supreme Court nominee to limit his or her term to 18 years on the bench.

“A lot of policy decisions are being made in the Supreme Court, from health care, Citizens United, marriage equality, all these go to the Supreme Court,” Come to Terms spokeswoman Jackie Matthews told TheBlaze. “They have extreme positions of power. It is irresponsible for one person to have such an extreme position of power for 50 years.”

This photo taken Friday, Oct. 3, 2014, shows the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

The group cites both legal scholars on the left and politicians and commentators on the right have advocated for term limits.

Talk radio host Mark Levin, president of the Landmark Legal Foundation, has called for a constitutional amendment to impose term limits on justices. Also Republican presidential contenders Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson have each spoken in favor of term limits for the Supreme Court.

A poll by Harstad Strategic Research found 70 percent of Republican primary voters and 56 percent of Democratic primary voters support term limits for justices.

“Lifetime appointments lead to too much power exercised by a single person for too long a period of time,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California, Irvine, School of Law. “On top of that, the future of the court depends wholly on the accident of when vacancies occur. Richard Nixon had four vacancies to fill in his first two years as President; Jimmy Carter had none in his four years as president.”

The 18-year term was arrived at by projecting a senior justice would retire every two years, thus it would essentially give each president an average of two nominees per term, Matthews said.

There is debate about whether a mandatory change could be done through statute or require a constitutional amendment. Matthews said if the public can demand justice take the voluntary pledge, it would be an important first step.

“It was historical precedent long before it was mandatory that the president serve only two terms,” Matthews said. “When that was broken, lawmakers had to step up to address a dangerous precedent.”

“It would take a long time to make a legal change, but this is something easy for people to rally around,” Matthews added.

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