Saturday, March 12, 2005

Judicial Term Limits

I am a reader of the Becker-Posner blogsite. Though a lot of what they talk about is of interest to me, I'm constantly astounded with the depth of their considerations with their conclusions. Today, Posner posted comments regarding judicial term limits, and Becker posted his in favor of them earlier. The gist of it was that Becker favors term limits for the judiciary, and Posner considers the current standard of "in good standing" to be undemocratic at its soul.
My current position is that I think it's beneficial to not have the term limits for the judiciary because it bars them from political pressures to get reappointed or re-elected. However, I can see that this can be accomplished in a different manner.
If a judge is appointed for life, and they know that short of impeachment they're not losing their job, it could breed inefficiency and a lackadaisical attitude on their part. Imposing a term limit of say 5 years eliminates that threat of slacking, but it runs the new threat of job-hunting, as Posner suggested, or, if they are allowed reappointment, it could run the risk of kowtowing.
If, however, you appointed the Judges to a single term of 10-20 years, the political pressure is (theoretically) alleviated, and since they'd ultimately have to find something else to do, if nothing more than lecture, they'd have to ensure they did their job enthusiastically.
Though I can see the benefit of the case, I don't know if I can totally wrap my head around it. We'll see how I feel after law school, and after I've been practicing a while.


particleman said...

I always wondered about that myself. How many jobs really are "permanent?" I think a completely permanent job can't be good for motivation. You really do need someone to light a fire under your ass every now and then, someone to scare you into thinking you're going to lose your job unless you improve your work, be more efficient, yadda yadda. It also runs the risk of letting people with dated or extinct ideas stay on the Court. Is that something we want? Maybe, maybe not.

Anonymous said...

So you'd initiate the constitutional amendment process -- two thirds of both houses of Congress and approval by three-fourths of the states -- to fix the theoretical "problem" of judicial slackers?

Good god, man, don't waste our time. If you're going to amend Article III, do it to some good purpose.

Michelle said...

I agree, i think a 10 max is enough to keep them fresh. In Australia, its only our high court judges ( 7 ) that are in the position for life so to speak.

Steve said...

I know that tenured faculty at universities are not required to retire, either.

Thank you for visiting my site! It's always welcome to hear another person's input.

We're certainly no experts on the judiciary, just inquisitive students attempting to understand the environment in which we'll ply our trade in a couple years.

I would recommend you to the becker-posner blogspot, which is on my blogroll, for a much more well-reasoned, and phenomenally better explained take on this matter. As a federal judge, Judge Posner has an angle that most others could never imagine, which makes it well worth considering just on that point.

I can't figure out if that's the best way or not. The rationale is that the selection process for the federal judiciary is such that it eliminates those candidates who are prone to inefficiency, which would beg the question of why it would be necessary to impose term limits. However, since the process is inherently flawed, that's not the strongest argument. I think 10 years could be a good place to start, but I'm not knowledgeable enough to say with any certainty that it's the best answer.