There it is again. In the news recently a movement surfaced that calls for an expansion in the number of people on the bench of the U.S. Supreme Court, Does the history of that fruitless effort provide us no lesson learned. It’s like placing nine wings on the back of a pig so it can fly, That having failed, then deciding to attach two more wings to see if that works. We all know that poor creature just ain’t gonna fly.
There have been as few as six and as many as ten justices on the high court in the past, with both parties at one time or another attempting to change the political ‘leaning’ of its decisions by changing the number of justices. Actually, the constitution says precious little about the supreme court other than that there has to be one. Specifically, it does not set a number for the court’s size, but I firmly believe that the number of justices on the bench is not the problem. Cleary, it’s how the members are chosen.
I would suggest that every president who has had the opportunity to appoint a nominee to this illustrious body has done so because said nominee has met, in one degree or another, enough political desires of the president and/or the senate to receive a confirmation. The way it is, and always has been, it’s an impossible task to have a completely non-partisan body in being the final judicial authority. As demonstrated by follow-up court actions, said appointees serve with those expectations to be met, regardless of which political party is in power. To be clear, as well, the constitution does not even say the court has to be non-partisan. It’s just a concept that apparently caught on through its growing years and it has become an expectation to functions in that manner.
As a point to begin the discussion, allow me to make the following proposal. Since there is already a National Judges Association, this body could establish a standing search committee, a group of retired members whose purpose would be to review qualifications of potential nominees to fill supreme court vacancies as they occur. After all applications have been reviewed, the top three to five names would then be forwarded to the Senate for debate and final selection and that recommendation then sent to the president.
I can hear one big exception to this plan now. ‘Those retired judges still carry those prejudices that won their appointment with them.’ While that may be true, I believe, however, that with their years of experience on the bench, plus the fact that they don’t need those factors anymore to win an appointment, their involvement in this kind of setting may somewhat ameliorate any past ‘leanings’ they may have had. Also, internal discussions with so many others of somewhat equal age and experience, would likely provide an enormous resource for give and take as well as the presence of more mutual respect as well as the absence of extremist influence.
At any rate, I think the debate should ensue in achieving the necessary changes in the process of selecting our supreme court justices. Although I don’t think this essay is going to be the total answer it could, however, be a start. There has to be a better way than how it’s being done now. What’s your idea?