Poll: 70 Percent Want To Abolish Lifetime Tenure At Supreme Court

The Supreme Court's newest member, Sonia Sotomayor and Chief Justice John Roberts pose outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2009, following her investiture ceremony. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
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Seven in ten Americans want to end lifetime appointments for Supreme Court justices, according to a new Harris poll out Wednesday.

Asked if justices should not have lifetime appointments, 41 percent “strongly” agreed and 28 percent “somewhat” agreed. Just 18 percent disagreed, 8 percent “strongly” and 10 percent “somewhat.” Twelve percent weren’t sure.

Lifetime tenure is baked into the U.S. Constitution, which provides that federal judges “shall hold their Offices during good Behavior.”

Some legal scholars have called for ending it, though; one idea is to replace it with a fixed 18-year term for Supreme Court justices including a lifetime salary.

Seventy percent of respondents also said the Supreme Court should “fairly represent the demographic (e.g., race, gender) makeup of the United States,” and 71 percent it should “fairly represent Americans’ diverse socioeconomic backgrounds.”

The Harris poll surveyed more than 2,000 adults online from Aug. 13-18. It does not state a margin or error.

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Notable Replies

  1. And that is exactly why we shouldn’t do it. The whole point of the Supreme Court is to be a check against popular opinion.

    The problem with ending Supreme Court Terms at a specific date – whether a birthday or a tenure date – is that it makes Presidential and Senate elections more focused on the Court and less on issues. With predictable ends to terms elections can become about changing the makeup of the Court. The result is an even greater politicization of the Court than we have already.

    The Court has always been political, dating back to the first nominations through Roosevelt’s attempts to stack it to the current idiocy with Citizen’s United. The problem will be when three Justices have to leave in a single upcoming term and entire Presidential elections are about that and nothing else.

  2. As a second point that I didn’t want to get lost in the above, the idea that the Court should represent the race, gender and socioeconomic backgrounds of the United States strikes me as wholly foolish.

    For one, you’re not going to find a lot of judges making $50,000 or less a year, much less judges making $50K or less and qualified to be a Supreme Court justice.

    But more importantly these folks are supposed to be the best of us, not the same as us. I am not qualified to be a Supreme Court justice, and not one person I know personally is. I wouldn’t want people like me or my neighbors or my friends making decisions that these folks have to make.

    We have these folks in place to represent us – elected and appointed officials – and that is because we aren’t able to do these jobs ourselves and still have our own lives. For my money, I want the people representing me to be better than I am and better able to do the job than I could.

  3. Avatar for condew condew says:

    Maybe we should just impeach Supreme Court justices who are so clueless as to believe the constitution says dollars vote and that freedom of religion is for corporations and not their employees.

  4. What bothers me most about the supreme ct is the people they associate with out of court Thomas wife should be in jail Scalia and the Koch brothers it just doesn’t look right to me!!!

  5. Exactly. This is also the problem that we have with redistricting. It comes after each census, and when that happens to fall on an off year election, as in 2010, a minority of voters selects the people who will be choosing the districts that we will deal with for the next 10 years. Redistricting should not be a partisan process, and judges should always be isolated from the whims of the public and politicians.

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