Readers React

Fixed terms for justices won't fix the Supreme Court

To the editor: As a dyed-in-the-wool liberal, I would love to see Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and John G. Roberts Jr. all step down before they reach their 80s, but I think that Gabe Roth is way off base in proposing term limits for Supreme Court justices. ("Putting Supreme Court justices out to pasture," op-ed, June 18)

Why would 18 years, as Roth proposes, be the right term? Because it can be evenly divided by nine, allowing for a retirement and appointment every two years? That seems simplistic, not to mention the almost continuous wranglings in the Senate over appointments.

There is also the irony of asking the nine people who have been sworn to interpret and uphold the Constitution to flout that very document by taking a pledge to resign in 18 years. Would such a pledge be required of nominees? Would a nominee's failure to make such a pledge cause senators to vote against the nominee even though the Constitution confers lifetime tenure?

To paraphrase Spock, live long and prosper, Supreme Court justices, even those with whom I disagree.

Andrew Rubin, Marina del Rey

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To the editor: There are two periods in a justice's life when she is most vulnerable to corruption: before she has been confirmed by the Senate — the president could demand promises in return for the nomination, and senators could do likewise in return for their votes — and as the justice approaches the end of her term and considers her future prospects.

The “House of Cards” scheme in which the fictitious President Underwood tries to influence a justice's decision to retire for political reasons exemplifies this situation.

In Roth's proposal, every two years a new justice would come in and a justice would leave. This greatly increases opportunities for corruption in court decisions, the opposite of what Roth wants.

The founders got this one right.

Douglas Borsom, Pasadena

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To the editor: Everything is changing, so too should the idea that Supreme Court justices get lifetime tenure.

Roth's proposal of a single, nonrenewable 18-year term for justices is a reasonable and creative idea.

Ken S. Huang, Murrieta

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