A group of Democrats introduced a bill Tuesday that would impose term limits on Supreme Court justices.
According to a report in Axios, the bill would let the president appoint a justice in the first and third years of his term and each justice would serve for 18 years before retiring from regular active service.
Democrats said the current court, consisting of members appointed for life, is illegitimate because of the popular vote and such recent decisions as its refusal to continue upholding abortion as a right.
“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,” Rep. Hank Johnson, Georgia Democrat and co-sponsor of the bill, said in a statement.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Rhode Island Democrat, will introduce the bill in the Senate, Axios reported.
The bill’s chances of becoming law and taking effect are very slim on two counts.
First, the near-certain lack of Republican support dooms it in a 50-50 Senate where most business requires 60 votes.
Its constitutionality is also dubious since one of the few specific provisions of Article III, which established the judicial branch, states that “The judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behaviour,” i.e., for life barring impeachment for misconduct.
But Democrats remain undeterred.
“Term limits are a necessary step toward restoring balance to this radical, unrestrained majority on the court,” said Mr. Johnson, who is chairman of the Judiciary subcommittee on courts.
The Axios report said the bill would keep the number of voting justices at nine by moving an existing justice, the longest-serving first, to senior status upon each biennial appointment.
The senior justices, as is the case in lower federal courts, would retain pay and some official duties, including voting if the number of justices drops below nine for any reason.
• Victor Morton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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