Saturday, April 10, 2010

Thank You, Mr. Justice

I want to say thank you to retiring Justice John Paul Stevens. Thank you for his nearly four decades of service on the nation's highest court. Thank you for his valiant fight against an ever-encroaching right-wing agenda. It may be impossible to replace him.

But now that's out of the way, I have to point out something. His 90th birthday will be on April 20th. He has been on The Bench since I was in elementary school. The reason for this is that the framers of the constitution decided that Federal Judges should have lifetime appointments. In other words, they could hold their posts for as long as they lived, or until they alone decided it was time to step down, whichever came first. There are, of course, ways of removing a Federal judge from the bench by other means, but instances of this happening are few and far between.

The problem with this is obvious: When this was decided, a person living past the age of 55 was the exception, not the rule. A "lifetime" appointment could be expected to last 10 years at the outside. Nowadays, however, a person appointed to the Federal bench at age 40, for example, can be reasonably expected to be able to hold onto that post for 50 years or more, if he or she desires. In other words, said person will be able to hold onto their position of extreme power and influence for 5 decades or more. No one in this day and age should have that much power.

I am definitely NOT advocating elections for Federal judgeships--one need look no further than any of the states that elect judges to their positions to see what a disaster THAT would be. What I am advocating, as have many before me, are term limits for federal judges. A 10, 15, or 20 year term for a federal judge would be much more acceptable. That way, no judge ever has the ability to impose his or her personal ideology on a society that may have become radically opposed that personal ideology, for better or worse.

I know it's a pipe dream, but wouldn't it be nice?

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