Beto O’Rourke Explains His Supreme Court Term Limits Plan

As the Supreme Court weighs in on key issues like gerrymandering and the U.S. Census, Democratic presidential candidates have been rolling out court reform ideas while on the campaign trail.

Former Beto O’Rourke recently announced his idea for limiting the amount of time justices serve on the Supreme Court. 

Currently, justices have lifetime appointments, but O’Rourke’s plan would limit them to 18 years. After the 18-year term, justices would be able to serve on federal courts of appeal. 

In explaining his position at an event in Ames, O’Rourke talked about de-escalating the amount of tension seen in recent Supreme Court nomination proceedings.

“I think having a defined term limit will ratchet down the temperature over these nomination battles,” he said. “I think knowing that there’s a set number of years that a justice can serve before there’s turnover and the opportunity for the next president to nominate, helps in all those areas.”

O’Rourke talked about how many issues the Court will see in the future, and said it’s important people feel secure about the Supreme Court. 

“It’ll provide some consistency in terms of turnover,” he said.

For example, in its October term, the Supreme Court will hear arguments for cases about DACA, LGBTQ discrimination and life sentences without parole for juveniles. 

“I’m open to listening to people on this and the best way to address real concerns about how acrimonious this nomination battles have become,” he said. “But you have justices who are now living longer than they ever have before, certainly much longer than we envisioned when the Constitution was written.”

He also said term limits would address the problem of partisanship because they would make nominating a hyper-partisan justice less monumental. People wouldn’t have to worry about a young, biased justice influencing the court for decades.

The label has increasingly been attached to the Supreme Court because of Donald Trump’s appointment of justices like Neal Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, and the year-long gap between Antonin Scalia’s death in 2016 and it being filled by Gorsuch in 2017. 

“You have a level of hyper-partisanship demonstrated by people like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who effectively stripped President Obama of his last year of office any ability to make a nomination,” O’Rourke explained.

Still, O’Rourke said he was open to any ideas to reform the Supreme Court that would restore the confidence people have lost in the Court’s neutrality.

Another idea, supported by Mayor Pete Buttigieg and several other candidates, would be to expand the number of seats on the Supreme Court.


by Nikoel Hytrek
Photo by Julie Fleming
Posted 7/3/19

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