term limits

A majority Americans from all political persuasions think lifetime appointments for the Supreme Court are a bad idea, and want term limits instead.

The data comes from a Morning Consult poll in July, released just ten days after President Trump appointed Brett Kavanaugh to fill the seat vacated by retiring Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy. 67 percent of Democrats polled, as well as 58 percent of Republicans, agreed that there should be term limits imposed on Supreme Court justices. 56 percent of self-identifying independents also agreed that there should be a limit to how long a Supreme Court justice can serve.

In addition to term limits, four in ten Americans support adding two additional justices to the Supreme Court. Of the 40 percent of respondents who said they would support two additional justices, 51 percent of Democrats were in favor, as well as over a third of Republicans and independents. The poll of approximately 2,000 registered voters had a margin of error of two percent.

July Morning Consult poll of registered voters on Supreme Court term limits and adding two additional justices

Because this poll was released prior to the earth-shattering sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh, it’s unknown whether or not the ongoing controversy surrounding Trump’s latest pick for the highest court affects those numbers. However, it’s likely that support for term limits has only increased, given how Kavanaugh’s popularity rating has slipped in the wake of the allegations. A recent Reuters poll found that those disapproving of Kavanaugh’s nomination now outnumber those who approve as well as Americans who are still undecided.

Implementing term limits is another thing entirely, but a Thursday article by VICE’s Harry Cheadle dug into how such a plan would be put into practice:

The Constitution stipulates that federal judges serve indefinite terms, so term limits would almost certainly require a constitutional amendment—which isn’t likely to happen. But way back in 2005 the Democratic DC lawyer Robert Bauer proposed a workaround: Presidents could nominate only justices who agree to serve limited terms, and over time a new norm would be established. However tenuous norms like that might seem right now, with something resembling term limits, the US would join every other democracy in the world in not having lifetime appointments for its highest court.

Adding two new justices, as the Morning Consult poll asked, would be another method for a more responsive Supreme Court. However, that would require an act of Congress. The Supreme Court has ben limited to nine justices since 1869, though the court has had as many as 10 justices and as few as six. While former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt attempted to pass legislation that would expand the Supreme Court to 15 justices, he was not successful.


Logan Espinoza is a freelance contributor specializing in economic issues. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona with his wife and daughter. Contact him at logan DOT espinoza AT yahoo DOT com.

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