• October 24, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Jason Steed, Associate at Bell Nunnally, and president of the Dallas-Ft. Worth Lawyer Chapter

    *This is the final post of a three-part series.

    In part 1, I suggested that predictability is the real value that term limits have to offer, and that this ought to be the focus in nonpartisan arguments for judicial term limits. And in part 2, I tried to briefly address some of the practical problems that must be solved before term limits can be imposed. In this post I want to have a little fun thinking about what term limits might look like in real life.

    In part 1 I mentioned the circumstances surrounding the 1968 election, which led to Nixon making four appointments to the Supreme Court in a single term. Let’s imagine that the public’s reaction to this revolution in the Court’s composition produced (quickly!) a constitutional amendment to impose the 18-year term limits we’ve been talking about. And let’s imagine that the only way the Republicans would go along with this, in 1972, was if everything could go into effect immediately—so that Nixon, who was a shoo-in for reelection (beating George McGovern 49 states to 1), could be assured the opportunity to appoint two more Supreme Court justices before leaving office. (Of course, no one would know at the time that Nixon would be forced to resign in 1974.)

  • October 24, 2014

    by Caroline Cox

    In Salon, Lynn Stuart Parramore discusses how new research indicates that wealth inequality is growing sharply around the world.

    Ellzabeth Wydra writes in the Huffington Post on how the Supreme Court is refusing to play politics in the Obamacare fight.

    In The Atlantic, Garrett Epps looks at Chief Justice John Roberts’ conflicting views on race and voter ID.

    Sean McElwee of Vox examines the class differences in voting rates and their implications for elections.

    In The Wall Street Journal, Jess Bravin discusses Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s correction to Texas Voter ID law dissent.

    Brianne Gorod considers the Chief Justice’s views on federal power at the Text and History Blog

  • October 23, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Jason Steed, Associate at Bell Nunnally, and president of the Dallas-Ft. Worth Lawyer Chapter

    In part 1, I tried to briefly explain why the argument for term limits should be focused on the nonpartisan value of increased apolitical predictability in the Court’s appointment process. Justices shouldn’t be tempted to base their retirement decisions on partisan politics, and we shouldn’t be left to speculate wildly about when the next justice might retire—or about how many appointments the next president might get.

    But once we agree term limits are a good idea (and 70% of the public agrees on this), we must shift to the practical concerns that surround the actual implementation of term limits. Right off the bat, at least four questions (or problems) arise:

    1.  How long should the term limits be?

    2.  What about the filibuster and other attempts to deprive a president of an appointment?

    3.  What about the role of Chief Justice—how does that work in a fixed-term system?

    4.  How do we transition? That is, how do we impose fixed terms on nine sitting justices who everyone expected to have lifetime appointments?

    Now, I’m no scholar on these matters, and I assume others have addressed them already, in one way or another. But here are my thoughts:

  • October 23, 2014

    by Caroline Cox

    In The Atlantic, Peter Beinart explains how voter ID laws channel an American tradition of restricting the political decisions of those with limited economic means.

    Emily Wax-Thibodeaux reports for The Washington Post on the announcement that Department of the Army engaged in discrimination against a transgender federal employee.

    A major factor in protecting the vote for minority voters in Arkansas was a 1865 ruling in favor of Confederate soldiers, writes Dahlia Lithwick for Slate.

    Nina Totenberg of NPR discusses Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s correction to her dissent on the Texas voter identification law.

    At Crime and Consequences, Ken Scheidegger argues that the Supreme Court should follow the example of the California Supreme Court in modifying opinions.

    Steven Mazie criticizes the lack of explanation from the Supreme Court on its decision to uphold the Texas voter identification law at The Economist

  • October 22, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Jason Steed, Associate at Bell Nunnally, and president of the Dallas-Ft. Worth Lawyer Chapter

    *This is part one of a three part series.

    There’s been a lot of talk lately about term limits for Supreme Court justices. Norm Ornstein brought renewed attention to the issue in May. Erwin Chemerinsky has proposed term limits in his new book, The Case Against the Supreme Court. And a recent poll asked about it, and shows nearly 70% of the public thinks term limits are a good idea.

    I was invited to write a blog post on this topic because I have a short article forthcoming in the December issue of The Federal Lawyer, which also makes a case for term limits. But unlike Ornstein and Chemerinsky, my primary focus isn’t the politics or ideology of the Court. My focus is on the 1968 presidential election.

    In a nutshell, a confluence of circumstances turned the 1968 election into a watershed for the Supreme Court. The newly elected Nixon was suddenly able to appoint four new justices to the Court—in his first term—transforming the progressive Warren Court into the moderately conservative Burger Court, and setting a trajectory (through the appointment of William Rehnquist) for the much more conservative Court that we have today. (You’ll have to read the article when it comes out, to get my full take on the story.)

    Yes, this transformation of the Court—politically and ideologically—has been deeply troubling for progressives over the last 40 years. But it would be a mistake, when making an argument for term limits, to spend too much time complaining about the longevity of the Court’s rightward bent. Imposing term limits will require a constitutional amendment, which will require support from both sides. And you can’t get support from both sides if you’re complaining about something that one side really, really likes.