Hyper-partisanship is not only bad in itself, but it's causing a long-term erosion of our civic institutions. When people suspect that judges are partisans, it reduces respect for the judicial system in general, which causes people to lose faith in the rule of law itself.
Lifetime appointments to the Federal judiciary were supposed to solve this problem. By holding their offices "during good behaviour", Federal judges are supposed to keep above the political fray, and let their consciences guide them.
Well, organizations like the Heritage Foundation have long been recommending people for the Federal bench strictly based on ideology, rather than jurisprudence. This problem isn't going away. And neither are the judges, some of whom could wind up serving for 50 years.
So the first Article of Amendment I would propose is this:
Section 1. Judges of the Supreme Court shall hold their offices for a term of 19 years. Judges of the inferior courts shall hold their offices for a term of 15 years.
Section 2. This Article shall apply to all persons appointed after its ratification, and to all other persons five years after its ratification.
This still means someone could serve as a Federal judge for life, because they could get appointed to different courts at 15-year intervals. But every 15 years, they'd need to be reappointed, and re-confirmed by the Senate. Yes, it would be a political process, but we wouldn't be stuck with incompetent or rabidly ideological judges forever.
If this Amendment were ratified today, Justices Bryer, Ginsburg, Thomas, and Kennedy would be forced out in 2022, leaving Alito, Sotomayor, Kagan, Gorsuch, and Chief Justice Roberts—who would be the next to go, in 2024. (Alito would be out in 2025.)
Appointing four Justices to 19-year terms could fall to Trump in that case, but unlikely as the amendment would not be ratified soon.
Even less likely to be ratified, but I think no less helpful in these partisan times, would be to get some turnover in the legislature. Now, I'd hate to lose my most senior legislators, Senator Dick Durbin and Representative Jan Schakowsky. But I'd really like to be done with Orrin Hatch, Mitch McConnell, and even Nancy Pelosi, believe it or not.
So here's my second proposed Article of Amendment:
Section 1. No person shall be elected to the House of Representatives more than eight times, nor serve in the House more than 17 years.
Section 2. No person shall be elected to the Senate more than three times, nor serve in the Senate more than 19 years.
Section 3. No person elected to either House and later to the other House shall serve in Congress for more than 24 years in his or her lifetime.
Section 4. This article shall not apply to any person serving in either House when this article was proposed by the Congress, until the next election of Representatives shall have intervened.
That would clean out the House and most of the Senate. It would be disruptive. But we would no longer have as many cranky old white men making policy for a younger, more colorful generation.
I'd like to hear from readers about this. What do you think?