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Supreme Court Term Limits

The Supreme Court has assumed a degree of power and importance that would have been unrecognizable in the founding era. A cascade of ethics scandals has laid bare a system in which justices wield tremendous power for decades with little accountability, while the Court’s rulings are increasingly unmoored from broadly held values and the principle of judicial restraint. Term limits would ensure that the Supreme Court stays in touch with American society and that no justice has too much power for too long.

How Term Limits Work

The ordinary operation of the Supreme Court — choosing cases, hearing oral argument, deliberating, and issuing decisions — would remain the same. The only change: after 18 years of active service, a justice would automatically become a senior justice, and a new justice would be appointed. Senior justices would continue to hold office as the Constitution requires. They would retain important duties, such as substituting for a recused, ill, or absent colleague, or hearing cases in the lower federal courts, as many retired Supreme Court justices have done.

No one should have power for this long, and term limits would better align term lengths with historical norms and strengthen the democratic link between the Court and the public.

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