The Judicial Reform Amendment: A Proposed 30th Amendment to the Constitution

Text of Proposed Amendment

Section 1. The President shall, during the first and third years after a year in which there is a presidential election, nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, appoint one justice of the Supreme Court. No person shall be appointed to the Supreme Court more than once, and no person who has been appointed to the Supreme Court shall serve more than eighteen years. But this Article shall not apply to any person serving as a justice of the Supreme Court when this Article was ratified by the Congress and the States.

Section 2. In matters of Senate advice and consent for judicial branch nominees, the Vice President, as President of the Senate, shall have no vote even if the Senate is equally divided. If the Senate fails to vote on a Presidential nominee to the judicial branch within three months of the President having transmitted the nomination to the Senate, the nominee shall be deemed to have been confirmed as if the Senate had provided its advice and consent.

Section 3. Lifetime tenure for federal judges is abolished. The term of office for all federal judges other than Supreme Court justices shall be limited to a single, nonrenewable term of fifteen years. Additionally, the Congress shall have the power to set a mandatory retirement age for all federal judges, including Supreme Court justices.

Section 4. Photography, audio recordings, and videography shall be allowed during Supreme Court sessions, subject to reasonable restrictions determined by the Congress.

Section 5. The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Rationale for Proposed Amendment

Section 1: There are multiple reasons to impose 18-year term limits on the Supreme Court, with justices serving staggered terms. (i) There is some reason to believe it would decrease partisan conflict over Supreme Court appointments. (ii) It would curb the tendency to appoint younger justices so that they would serve longer on the Court. (iii) It would decrease the tendency of justices to time their retirements. (iv) It would prevent purely contingent, historical accidents from giving some Presidents a disproportionate number of appointments while give others few or none.

Section 2: This section removes the possibility of the Vice President casting the tie-breaking vote in the Senate on a vote to confirm a judicial nominee. This is necessary because it is fundamentally inappropriate for a member of the Executive Branch, the Vice President, to play any role whatsoever in the vote to confirm a judicial nominee.

This Section also eliminates the possibility of the Senate defeating a nominee without a vote. The Senate retains its power to reject Presidential nominees, but it forces the Senate to vote to do so.

Section 3: Lifetime tenure for judges may have made sense when the Constitution was ratified in 1789 and the average life expectancy was 38 years. It makes no sense in 2021, when the average life expectancy is 78.5 years and federal judges can expect to serve 30-50 years after Senate confirmation.

Independent of abolishing lifetime tenure for federal judges, this section also grants the Congress the authority to establish a mandatory retirement age, just as it has done so for other professions (such as airline pilots).

Section 4: The Supreme Court has traditionally blocked most forms of media, including photography and video. This section explicitly states that photography, audio records, and videography are allowed, subject to reasonable restrictions determined by the Congress.

Section 5: This section grants the Congress the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

See the following external links:

Articles about Related Proposals for a Bill to Establish Supreme Court Term Schedule and Limits

1 thought on “The Judicial Reform Amendment: A Proposed 30th Amendment to the Constitution”

  1. As a minor quibble, the average life expectancy in the 1700s was 38 because childhood deaths were common. Once a child had lived beyond about five years old it could reasonably expect to live to “three score and ten”.

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