NIU Professor Suggests Elimination Of Lifetime Supreme Court Appointments

Oct 14, 2020

Artemus Ward is a professor of political science at Northern Illinois University

The increased politicization of choosing Supreme Court justices has at least one academic suggesting an end to lifetime appointments.

Artemus Ward is a political Science professor at Northern Illinois University. He says lifetime appointments politicize the process by having justices time their departures during politically advantageous climates. The recent death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, he said, threw the Supreme Court into election year politics.

“If we got rid of life tenure and we had term limits for Supreme Court justices" he said, "and we had them staggered, and we had them every other year in non-election years -- and so every president every four years got two appointments -- then you would depoliticize the process.” 

Limiting these terms, he said, would help avoid vacancies that get politicized in the first place.

“And because if you had the term limits -- the scholarly consensus is 18-year terms -- then you would be able to maybe appoint justices who were a bit older, who are considered today unacceptable because of their age," he said. "And so that would really put a lot of jurists in play, and perhaps a whole lot more respected jurists.” 

He also criticized what he views as increasing public spectacle in the confirmation hearings. Ward said there’s too much focus on Senators grandstanding for interest groups and their constituents.

Professor Ward suggested the use of more informational sources for tracking Suprme Court developments, such as SCOTUSblog.