Publications

The Supreme Court: Depoliticizing the Judiciary

By Julia Baumel — February 4, 2020

Citizens should be able to trust the court to provide equal justice under the law no matter who sits on the bench. Restoring trust in the Supreme Court requires structural changes to diminish the incentives for Congressional Democrats and Republicans to declare war with one another each time a vacancy occurs.

OVERVIEW

Our Solutions In Brief

1. Impose 18-Year Term Limits for Supreme Court Justices

To remain consistent with the intentions of the Founders and grant judges some autonomy from the other two branches of government and public opinion, they should be allowed a generous, but not lifelong, tenure of 18 years. This would allow for a predictable appointment schedule: a president would appoint one justice in the first year and one in the third year of a term.

2. Implement a Cloture Threshold That Alternates with the Balance of Power

Between the previous rule (60 votes to confirm) and today's rule (51 votes to confirm), there is a middle ground that would require at least some bipartisan support for any confirmation. If the same party controls the White House and the Senate, 60 votes would be required to invoke cloture and proceed to a vote on a nominee. During a period of divided government, however, a 60-vote cloture requirement would allow a filibuster to effectively derail any presidential nomination for the Supreme Court, regardless of the quality of the nominee.

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Numbers At-A-Glance

  • The United States is the only major democracy

    in which judges on the highest court serve lifelong terms.

  • 26 years

    the average tenure of a Supreme Court justice

  • Only 36%

    of Supreme Court decisions were unanimous since 2000, while 19% were 5-4.

  • Cases involving politically-charged issue areas are more likely than others to provide divided votes.

    Cases involving less politically-charged issues are more likely to produce unanimous votes.

  • 70%

    of Americans believe Supreme Court justices should have term limits

  • 55%

    of Senate roll call votes in the years since 2007-2008 involved appointment confirmations

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