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Supreme Court Justices Serve too Long

Posted by Steve Markowitz on May 7, 2014

Supreme Court Justices are appointed by our presidents and are given lifelong tenure. The logic behind this tenure was in the effort to keep the Court from being politicized. Unfortunately, that has not been the result.

For at least recent decades, sitting Justices of the Supreme Court have been divided into two main groups, the liberal and conservative wings. They often vote as a block that results in many fairly evenly split decisions. This reality is evidence of a politicized court that makes decisions based on biases in interpreting the law, rather than objective interpretations of it or the Constitution.

ruth-bader_ginsburgIn addition, the lifelong tenure for Justices results in decisions being made by legal minds that are often long pass their prime. For example, former Justice Jon Paul Stevens stepped down from the Court in 2010 at the age of 90. While Stevens may have been sharp for his age, it is reasonable to conclude that his last years in the Court were hindered by declining capabilities.

Currently, the Court’s oldest Justice is Ruth Bader Ginsburg who is 81 years old. In addition, Ginsburg has had serious and ongoing health issues including two bouts with cancer. Again, it is reasonable to conclude that her intellectual capabilities have been declining. However, during a recent interview Ginsburg said: “I do know that once I feel I am slipping, I will not stay here, because this is a very hard job. But that time, thank goodness, has not yet come.” With all due respect Ms. Ginsburg is not capable of making that call.

Progressives like former Justice Stevens and current Justice Ginsburg take the view that the Constitution needs to be a dynamic document, especially with changes in society. Taking such a view seems in conflict with remaining on the Court so late in life when their own values have been so ingrained.

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