In a proposal unveiled on Nov. 15, Republican presidential candidate and Texas Gov. Rick Perry proposes ending lifetime appointments for the federal judiciary. Labeling the proposal “Uproot and Overhaul Washington,” Perry’s plan posted on his campaign’s website states: “The courts and the activist judges that inhabit them too often ignore the Constitution and legislate from the bench, distorting the fundamental principles of this country.” His proposal: “[T]ake a look at a few structural reforms to rein in those who seem to have forgotten there is a limit to their power.” Specifically, he proposes ending lifetime appointments for the federal judiciary and writes about the possibility of passing a constitutional amendment creating 18-year terms for U.S. Supreme Court justices, “staggered every 2 years, so that each of the nine justices would be replaced in order of seniority every other year.” In a footnote, the website cites as a reference Steven G. Calabresi and James Lindgren, Northwestern University School of Law Public Law and Legal Theory Series, “Term Limits for the Supreme Court: Life Tenure Reconsidered.” Perry’s campaign website also states, “Doing this would move the court closer to the people by ensuring that every President would have the opportunity to replace two justices per term, and that no court could stretch its ideology over multiple generations. Further, this reform would maintain judicial independence, but instill regularity to the nominations process, discourage Justices from choosing a retirement date based on politics, and will stop the ever-increasing tenure of Justices. A similar model could also be applied to appellate and district courts.” The Perry campaign plan also suggests: “Congress has the authority under the Constitution to establish the jurisdiction of the Court. If our courts insist on refusing to adhere to the Constitution and the law on important issues — be it school prayer, life, the death penalty or anything else of importance to the people — then Congress should take their jurisdiction away. As president, Governor Perry would work with Congress to establish the necessary changes to the judicial system.” A message seeking comment left at the press office of the Perry presidential campaign was not immediately returned.
-- Miriam Rozen