Reforming The Supreme Court? Step One Is Now Underway

Yesterday, House Judiciary Committee chair Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Hank Johnson (D-GA), and 4 senior members of the committee— David Cicilline (D-RI), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Karen Bass (D-CA), Steve Cohen (D-TN)— plus Ro Khanna (D-CA) from the Oversight and Reform Committee introduced a bill, the Supreme Court Tenure Establishment and Retirement Modernization (TERM) Act, to start the reform process of the Supreme Court. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) is introducing the same bill in the Senate.

This afternoon, Khanna told me that "Six extremist justices trying to undermine our democracy and fundamental freedoms shouldn’t get to remain on the court for life. Term limits will help rebalance the court and ensure impartiality. I’m glad to work with Rep. Hank Johnson to create term limits for Supreme Court justices-- a measure that is overwhelmingly popular with the American people. Let's pass this bill and my Supreme Court Term Limits Act."

Polling has shown that two-thirds of Americans support term limits for Supreme Court justices and this bill lays out an orderly process for achieving just that. This is what the bill would do:

• 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; and

• 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.

The sponsors have said that their bill will “restore legitimacy and independence to the nation’s highest court… Five of the six conservative justices on the bench were appointed by presidents who lost the popular vote, and they are now racing to impose their out-of-touch agenda on the American people, who do not want it. Term limits are a necessary step toward restoring balance to this radical, unrestrained majority on the court.”