You may remember Jen McCreight. When an Iranian clerk blamed women wearing revealing clothes for causing earthquakes, she accidentally started a global event called Boobquake, which scientifically proved him wrong.
This year her father, Mike, also got into the newfangled blogging game, and started If I Were King, a little place for him to write about whatever is pissing him off at the time. He’s a smart guy. He makes a lot of good points, and his blog is always an interesting read.
But today he wrote something I found myself disagreeing strongly with. Writing about the US Supreme Court, he argues that life time appointments for justices are no longer a good thing. Justices no longer vote by their conscience – politics be damned – but instead vote according to ideology. “Now justices vote along straight political lines. The new strategy for appointments is to send justices to the Supreme Court at an early age and make damn sure their political ideology is aligned to the party in power.” This, of course, is the part of his post I agree with. Since justices have life terms, political parties make all kinds of manoeuvrings to get someone who’ll vote their way on the bench. And having the same people in their jobs for such a long time reduces the likelihood of change or reform. Decisions that may have been applicable thirty years ago may now, in a different culture, be appropriately overturned. But that won’t necessarily happen if the same people are on the bench, and their opinions haven’t kept up with the changing attitudes of society. Just as the executive branch of government has fixed term lengths, I think the judiciary should too. I like Mike’s suggestion of 15 years.
What I disagree with, though, is Mike’s idea of a minimum age. He proposes that to be nominated, a justice must be at least 55 years old. As I said, an aging Supreme Court is not necessarily a good thing. I certainly respect the advantages of age and experience, but I don’t think it’s impossible to find similar experience and wisdom in a 45 year old, for example. So I agree and disagree with Mike: fixed 15 year terms would be great, but I don’t think a minimum age of 55 is the way to go.
What do you think? Are life terms a good idea? Should there be a minimum age?