Supreme Court JusticesMany things have changed since the inception of the Supreme Court. The average life expectancy has dramatically increased; alzheimer's and other such mentally debilitating...

Supreme Court Justices

Many things have changed since the inception of the Supreme Court. The average life expectancy has dramatically increased; alzheimer's and other such mentally debilitating diseases are on the rise among the elderly; the confirmation hearings nominees must "pass" have become so contentious that potential justices have been known to say whatever is expedient and then do things quite contrary to their statements. 

Given those issues and more, should Supreme Court Justices still be appointed for life?

Expert Answers
amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In order to relieve the judges of the scrutiny and pressure of public opinion which they would undoubtedly be under should they have to continually run for re-election, I do support their positions as life-time.  However, I do think there should be some codicile preventing several judges retiring at once giving one president so much power and ability to sway judgments for so many years after they've left office.  Chances are the president would choose the same type of judge (predominently conservative or liberal, or whatever) which takes away from the idea of a versatile Supreme Court who represents the entire citizenry of the the USA...not just a small part of it. 

drmonica eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think appointment for life is fine, as long as when SCOTUS judges retire when it becomes appropriate. Setting an arbitrary mandatory retirement age doesn't make sense, because people age at different rates. Life appointment means that the justices are able to make decisions without regard to "keeping their jobs," which is, unfortunately, the case in elected posts. Nonetheless, we have seen in the U.S. Senate, in the cases of Robert Byrd and Strom Thurmond, that some voters are willing to keep electing long-term candidates, regardless of their physical and mental capacity to do the work.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Yes, they should keep their lifetime appointments.  It is quite democratic to have an independent judicial branch in this country.  It allows them to do the most crucial aspect of their job: to interpret the Constitution, without having to worry about public opinion at that moment, or whether or not the President will nominate them for another term.  It allows them to rule against the President (U.S. vs. Nixon) and for the smallest ethic, religious or political minority without fear of retribution from the minority.

kjcdb8er eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree that the Supreme court justices should have lifetime appointments for the same reason given by our founders: they should be immune from the politics and influences of having to run for office. Not only should Congress take their duty to confirm the president's picks seriously, Congress should remember that they can impeach judges as well as presidents. There is some chance this would help the justices not only be immune from politics, but to fulfill their obligation to keep their own politics out of their judgments.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with other editors who have posted here - whilst there are significant disadvantages to having a supreme court membership of judges who run for life, the other approach to having an elected Sureme Court would be disastrous as I think we have enough drama and political hypocrisy already in American politics! The Supreme Court does play a vital role in their work, and it is espeically important that they are free to do what they feel is best instead of making decisions that will be popular with voters.

ktmagalia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I totally agree with the life appointment, and I agree with the previous posters.  This is one place that politics needs to be kept at bay. However, I do think that the nomination hearings are losing power and a "pass" appears to be a "given".  Nominees need to have cases that have been ruled upon to allow our representatives enough evidence of stance and bias. Our current nominee, although intelligent with legal expertise, doesn't exactly have the judicial experience appropriate for a life time appointment.

lynn30k eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Definitely for life. The last thing you would want is a Justice who is playing politics as usual in order to get re-elected! It seems that most (repeat, most) of the Justices have made decisions that would have been very difficult to predict based on their supposed political leanings before they were appointed. And that, to my way of thinking, is a very good thing. They should be appointed based on their ability to form an intelligent opinion.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

No question that they should be allowed to stay on for life.  I have to believe that any Justice who became debilitated would step down.  We have never yet had a Justice stay on the Court when he/she could no longer carry out the duties required.  In addition, I do not see where having a fixed term would solve any of the non age-related problems you mention.

martinjmurphy eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Yes, I think Supreme Court Justices should be appointed for life.  If they had to run for election, you can only imagine the decisions the Court would make, cowtowing to the latest public opinion.  If the Court was not appointed for life, some of its greatest decisions may never had been made, because they went contrary to popular belief.

krishna-agrawala | Student

In India, Supreme Court judges are not appointed for life. But if in USA or other countries the Supreme Court judges are appointed for life and are expected to continue to work in this capacity irrespective of the condition of their health, definitely it is not in the best interests of justice.

Continuation in any job involving responsible work must be subject to the person holding a post being physically and mentally fit for that job. Retirement age is a widely used method to prevent people who have become physically and mentally unfit due to old age to continue in their jobs. Even when a person does not become totally unfit to hold a job because of old age, ability of the person may decline. The provision of retirement age ensures that younger people with a future potential are given the opportunity to develop this potential. I do not see any justification in exempting Supreme Court judges from retirement age requirement, unless there is an alternative means to prevent judges with reduced mental and physical capabilities because of old age continuing to work as supreme court judges indefinitely.

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