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Another Reminder of How Stupid Lifetime Judicial Terms Are

Ruth Bader Ginsberg

Ruth Bader Ginsberg

Over at Elle magazine Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg explained why she hasn’t resigned during President Obama’s term:

Who do you think President Obama could appoint at this very day, given the boundaries that we have? If I resign any time this year, he could not successfully appoint anyone I would like to see in the court. [The Senate Republicans] took off the filibuster for lower federal court appointments, but it remains for this court. So anybody who thinks that if I step down, Obama could appoint someone like me, they’re misguided. As long as I can do the job full steam…. I think I’ll recognize when the time comes that I can’t any longer. But now I can.

Ginsburg has been on the Supreme Court since 1993. That means she has already played a huge role in shaping American policy for over 20 years, but even that is not enough. Her lifetime appointment gives her the freedom to decide when to retire enabling her to play a massive role in determining who her replacement will be. This should easily extend her influence by another 30 years and could indirectly extend decades beyond that if her replacement makes a similar retirement strategy decision.

While I personally agree with Ginsburg on most issues, I find the idea of any unelected individual having over half a century of incredible influence deeply disturbing. I want neither Ginsburg or Antonin Scalia to have that level of power. This is why basically every other democracy on earth doesn’t use the idiotic idea of lifetime appointments for judges. They tend to use either one very long set term or a firm retirement age. At least that way a Supreme Court justices is effectively removed from the process of determining their replacement.

Photo by The Aspen Institute under Creative Commons license

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Jon Walker

Jon Walker

Jonathan Walker grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2006. He is an expert on politics, health care and drug policy. He is also the author of After Legalization and Cobalt Slave, and a Futurist writer at