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Democrats introduce bill to term limit Supreme Court justices

Supreme Court
Posted at 12:14 PM, Jul 27, 2022

Democratic lawmakers introduced a bill on Tuesday that would limit Supreme Court justices to 18-year terms and allow presidents to appoint new justices every two years.

The Supreme Court Tenure Establishment and Retirement Modernization Act was introduced by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. Hank Johnson. Their proposal comes as conservatives hold a 6-3 advantage on the high court.

Given the current makeup of the court, it is highly unlikely the bill would garner much support from Republicans. While many Democrats would be eager to institute such a change to the Supreme Court, several key Democratic senators have said they would not lift the Senate filibuster to change the composition of the Supreme Court.

The proposal also comes after the Supreme Court made a number of consequential decisions this year, including overturning Roe v. Wade.

According to Johnson, the proposal would:

  • Establish terms of 18 years in regular active service for Supreme Court justices, after which justices who retain the office will assume senior status
  • Establish regular appointments of Supreme Court justices in the first and third years following a presidential election as the sole means of Supreme Court appointments
  • Require current justices to assume senior status in order of length of service on the Court as regularly appointed justices receive their commissions
  • Preserve life tenure by ensuring that senior justices retired from regular active service continue to hold the office of Supreme Court justice, including official duties and compensation
  • Require the Supreme Court justice who most recently assumed senior status to fill in on the Court if the number of justices in regular active service falls below nine

Such a proposal could come with popular public support. A poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds 67% of Americans say they support term limits or a mandatory retirement age for justices, including a majority of Democrats and Republicans.

Of the nine current justices, only one, Justice Clarence Thomas, has served beyond 18 years (30 years). Of the 116 to ever serve on the Supreme Court, 50 have served beyond 18 years.