Skip to content
Subscriber Only
Ramesh Ponnuru

Supreme Court Term Limits Could Backfire on Democrats

Caps that apply only to new justices would frustrate the partisan ambitions behind the effort.

What if Justice Breyer had been term-limited?

What if Justice Breyer had been term-limited?

Photographer: Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images

Justice Stephen Breyer is now the subject of a lobbying campaign to get him to step down — a campaign being conducted by his fans. They’re responding to a peculiar feature of U.S. government: Vast swaths of public policy depend less on the outcome of elections than on a few elderly lawyers’ retirement plans and health. It’s not a situation that anyone designed, exactly, but it’s how our political system has evolved.

The screwiness of this arrangement has led to calls for term limits for Supreme Court justices. One proposal would give justices 18 years apiece on the bench, with a president making a new nomination every two years. Every president would get to pick two term-limited justices per term.