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18-YEAR TERMS FOR
SUPREME COURT JUSTICES 

LIFE TENURE IS TOO LONG FOR ANY ONE INDIVIDUAL TO SIT ON THE SUPREME COURT. 

LIFETIME APPOINTMENTS HAVE CREATED SERIOUS PROBLEMS THAT THREATEN OUR JUSTICE SYSTEM AND DEMAND OUR ATTENTION.


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The system of life tenure for Supreme Court justices is broken and far removed from its original intent.

We have no rules in place to tell Supreme Court justices when their time on the bench is up.

Instead, partisan politics take over, placing enormous pressure on the justices to retire at a time when a president of their same party sits in office and can nominate a successor who will rule in line with their party’s views.

The nine U.S. Supreme Court justices already wield enormous, unchecked power over the course of our nation. They shouldn't also be able to decide who takes their place.

At a time when the court’s decisions increasingly reflect partisan politics, Come to Terms proposes a better way to ensure accountability and independence: single, standard 18-year terms for U.S. Supreme Court justices.

THE 18-YEAR PLEDGE

There’s a big step forward we can take right now. Join Come to Terms in calling on the next U.S. Supreme Court nominee to pledge to serve a single, standard term of 18 years. Come to Terms’ 18-Year Pledge allows the American people see which judicial nominees are willing to do their part to address the broken system and put people over politics.

NO MORE GAMES


We can stop the partisan political game by which justices stretch out their tenure and time their retirement to influence what party gets to fill their vacant seat. Gaming Supreme Court retirements opens the door for one party to stack the court – and stack the deck against the American people.


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Under the current system of lifetime appointments, vacancies and nominations occur sporadically and unpredictably, creating the potential for one president to nominate five justices to the court and the next president to nominate none. For instance, Richard Nixon had four vacancies to fill in his first two years as President; Jimmy Carter had none in his four years as President. In a recent poll conducted by Harstad Strategic Research, Inc., three out of four American primary voters said the court is doing a poor job of staying independent from politics. Single, standard, 18-year terms for U.S. Supreme Court justices will bring much-needed order and political independence to the currently chaotic and partisan system of appointing Supreme Court justices.

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18 YEARS ARE ENOUGH


As some U.S. Supreme Court justices approach the 30-year mark on the court, voters of all stripes overwhelmingly agree that 18-year standard terms would be a reasonable alternative to the current system of lifetime appointments.


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Come to Terms’ 18-Year Pledge launches at a time when the average tenure of a Supreme Court justice has spiked from 14.9 years before 1970 to 26.1 years today. Some justices serve a decade or longer past the death of the president that appointed them, and president increasingly turn to younger and younger Supreme Court nominees in an attempt to extend their – and their party’s – influence over the judiciary for as long as possible. Clarence Thomas was 43 years old when he was confirmed for the Supreme Court in 1991. If he remains on the Court until he is 90, the age at which Justice Stevens retired, he will sit on the Supreme Court for 47 years. No one needs more than 18 years in the high stakes and extremely powerful position of Supreme Court justice.

FRESH PERSPECTIVES



A more regular rotation of individuals on the court would lead to a bench that is reflective of all of the American people, not just an elite few. Come to Terms offers a reasonable solution to decrease political gamesmanship on the court and increase the court’s connection to everyday Americans.

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U.S. Supreme Court justices are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. Two elected bodies of government that represent the interests and values of the American people. Judicial nominations are meant to ensure that court stays independent from partisanship and politics but also continually reflects the values of the American people. However, in a recent poll conducted by Harstad Strategic Research, Inc., 51% of American primary voters said they disapprove of the job the current Supreme Court is doing. In particular, three out of four Democrats and more than half of all respondents strongly oppose the court’s Citizens United decision that opened the floodgates for corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money for or against candidates. A regular rotation of perspectives on the court would keep the court more connected to everyday Americans.

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SUPPORTERS  

  • Erwin Chemerinsky Dean and Distinguished Professor of Law, UC Irvine Law

    My conclusion is not to give up on the Supreme Court… There are many reforms that can make the court better and taken together make it less likely that it will so badly fail in the future. I propose a host of changes, among them… establishing term limits for Supreme Court justices.

  • Jeffrey Toobin Legal Analyst, CNN and The New Yorker

    The Constitution was written at a time when life tenure meant living into your 50s because that’s what life expectancy was. Thirty-year tenures are not what the framers had in mind.

  • Timothy Noah Author, The Great Divergence

    Longevity has made the Supreme Court confirmation process extremely partisan and contentious – the stakes are just too absurdly high.

  • Jonathan Chait Writer, New York Magazine

    The current system of lifetime tenure creates real problems. Huge policy swings hinge on the simple health and longevity of Supreme Court justices… It also gives presidents an incentive to nominate the youngest possible justice who can be confirmed, as opposed to the most qualified justice.

"RENDER THE JUDICIARY RESPECTABLE BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY." - THOMAS JEFFERSON

DEMAND CHANGE. SIGN THE PETITION.

ABOUT US  

Come To Terms is a project of Fix The Court, a national, non-partisan grassroots organization created to increase the Supreme Court's transparency and accountability.

Supported by a diverse cadre of legal scholars and political thought leaders, Come To Terms aims to restore independence and accountability to the nation's most important judicial body.  

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No other democracy in the world allows high court justices to serve for life. Sign our #SCOTUS term limits petition act.myngp.com/Forms/-1976227…

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