By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

We need terms limits for SCOTUS as well as some constraints on its powers

Photo (cc) 2021 by TapTheForwardAssist

Like no doubt many of you, I am horrified by the Supreme Court’s decision in the presidential immunity case but have little to offer beyond what you’re reading and seeing elsewhere. Nor did I feel reassured when President Biden came out and read a five-minute speech. Here’s part of what the historian Heather Cox Richardson had to say in a truly chilling essay for her newsletter, “Letters from an American”:

This is a profound change to our fundamental law — an amendment to the Constitution, as historian David Blight noted. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts said that a president needs such immunity to make sure the president is willing to take “bold and unhesitating action” and make unpopular decisions, although no previous president has ever asserted that he is above the law or that he needed such immunity to fulfill his role. Roberts’s decision didn’t focus at all on the interest of the American people in guaranteeing that presidents carry out their duties within the guardrails of the law.

It seems to me that if we’re going to save the country, it’s absolutely essential that a Democrat be elected to the White House this fall, whether it’s Biden or someone else, and that the Democrats take both branches of Congress as well. That’s a tall, unlikely order. And I’m sorry to have to be so partisan, but Bob Dole, John McCain and Mitt Romney are not walking through that door.

After that, we can talk about what needs to be done about the court, which has long since sunk into illegitimacy thanks to the machinations of Mitch McDonnell and the corruption of Clarence Thomas and Sam Alito. I’ve seen an upsurge in commentary that the court should be expanded, but that strikes me as a fool’s game — something that could easily be gamed by both parties until we’re up to a 57-member SCOTUS. Instead, I’d like to see term limits that guarantee every president will get one or two appointments plus constraints on the court’s powers, which at the moment appear to be limitless.

I would also like to see Santa.

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  1. Paul Bass

    Excellent, smart proposal IMHO

  2. Randi Swartz

    Agree with you 100%.

  3. StephenB

    I want to see Santa, too!🎅🏻

  4. SCOTUS term limits would require a constitutional amendment. It might get bi-partisan support, though.

  5. Deborah Nam-Krane

    It is my understanding that the justices are impeachable. I’m baffled why that isn’t being pursued for Thomas and Alito. We’re pretty past polite “norms” that would have prevented pursuing that. But yes, we need both houses for that.

    I have no objection to adding more justices, and that’s an easier avenue to pursue than term limits. But…why not both?

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