News

Is Rick Perry right about term limits for the Supreme Court?

Pin it

Governor Goodhair himself, Rick Perry, wants to overhaul the lifetime tenure system for Supreme Court justices instituted by the Founding Fathers. Perry already supports proposed federal amendments that would outlaw gay marriage and abortion, and he would also like to do away with permanent job security on the Court by amending Article III, Section I of the Constitution. I have a sneaking suspicion that Clarence Thomas doesn't have his back on this one.

Perry thinks that, over the past century, judges have gotten a little too extra-Constitutional (read: activist) in their ways, becoming "unaccountable" to the people. I don't know if this is true, but I do know I wouldn't want to get on Antonin Scalia's bad side. As a states' rights guy, Perry proposes that the "nine oligarchs in robes" serve eighteen-year terms, staggered for retirements every two years. This would give presidents less incentive to nominate younger-skewing potential justices, and help keep mainstream legal thought in the forefront. But it probably won't prevent nominees from having attended either Harvard or Yale Law School, as every current justice has.

In his book, Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America from Washington, the former Eagle Scout from Paint Creek, Texas writes:

"[W]e should take steps to restrict the unlimited power of the courts to rule over us with no accountability. There are a number of ideas about how to do this… One such reform would be to institute term limits on what are now lifetime appointments for federal judges, particularly those on the Supreme Court or the circuit courts, which have so much power. One proposal, for example, would have judges roll off every two years based on seniority."

Another way Perry proposes to put those power-drunk justices in their place is by granting Congress veto power over Court decisions provided they can muster a two-thirds vote. He writes, "[A]llow Congress to override the Supreme Court with a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate, which risks increased politicization of judicial decisions, but also has the benefit of letting the people stop the Court from unilaterally deciding policy."

Does anyone think this populist-sounding Perry makes a good point? He's by no means the first to float the idea of Supreme Court term limits, but it does provide a clue about how a President Perry might operate. He told an interviewer that the framers had said, "Listen, if you all in the future think things are so important that you need to change the Constitution, here's the way you do it."