We need to make changes to the Supreme Court (Ted Kaufman)
I’ve been thinking a lot about the steady erosion of public confidence in the Supreme Court, which is supposed to be above politics and all about equal justice under the law but isn’t really seen that way anymore. Here are a few ideas to restore public confidence in this institution. The true aim seems to be limiting efforts of Republicans to turn the SCT into a more conservative institution.
#TRANSPARENCY – You can turn on C-Span and observe the proceedings in the other two branches, but you never see the Supreme Court justices in action, hearing cases, because they refuse to let refuse to let TV cameras in to film their sessions. We have every right to see those sessions. Televised proceedings would further politicize the SCt proceedings, which is a really bad idea.
#OVERSIGHT - IN every other part of the federal government, there are inspectors general or ethics overseers who ensure their agencies or legislators are staying within the law. Inspectors general make sure all agencies adhere to the ethical rules of the federal government, e.g., the requirements of the Ethics in Government Act of 1978. But Supreme Court justices are only required to comply with “parts of the Ethics Act,” and they “are not required to disclose why others paid for their travel, or why they recuse or do not recuse themselves from cases.” The solution: “A simple majority vote by the present justices could change their ethics requirements tomorrow.” The SCt is small enough to police itself without creating a layer of administrative oversight.
#APPOINTMENTS – Presidents “should stop what has only recently become the norm — always nominating people who have previously served as federal judges.” Elana Kagan is a recent exception to the alleged practice.
Of 113 Supreme Court justices in our history, all but six have been white males, ergo “we need more women and minority appointments.” However, four of the six exceptions — Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor— sit on today’s court. Surely Mr. Kaufman doesn’t mean to suggest a quota system for future appointments.
And all of the current justices attended either Harvard Law (5) or Yale Law (4), so why not tap some graduates of other law schools? Choose the best candidates, wherever they studied law.
#TERM LIMITS - It is not good to have major issues that require new approaches [here Mr. Kaufman seems to assume an activist court] left in the hands of justices who have lived in the cloistered life of the Supreme Court for decades. That is why I am in favor of a 12-year limit on a justice’s tenure. A constitutional amendment would be required, and we would think that any term limit proposal worthy of the name would also apply to the members of Congress. Furthermore, existing members of the SCt would presumably be exempted.