My friend Steve Hill of the New America Foundation has a well-researched op-ed on lifetime appointment of federal judges here in the Denver Post.
He calls for term limits, mandatory retirement ages, higher confirmation thresholds to require bipartisan appointments and multiple appointment institutions to create a more representative and somewhat counter-intuitively, less partisan judiciary.
Here are some nuggets:
High-court justices in Germany are limited to 12-year terms, and in France, Italy and Spain 9-year terms. There's American precedent, with judges on the U.S. Court of Federal Claims limited to 15-year terms. Also, members of the Federal Reserve Board, shielded from politics because they oversee the nation's economy, serve 14-year terms, with Chairman Alan Greenspan appointed for a four-year term.
In France, Germany and Italy, no single person or institution has a monopoly on appointments to the constitutional court. In Spain, four judges are appointed by the upper house, four by the lower house, two by the government, and two by a judges' council.
Bipartisan appointments also hold promise. The Senate might review only nominees proposed through a bipartisan selection procedure. As a step in that direction, one option is to require a confirmation vote of 60 senators instead of a simple majority. Since no one party
In 2004, Democratic senatorial candidates won more than 51 percent of the votes cast, yet Republicans won 19 of 34 (56 percent) contested seats. So the minority party holds a majority of Senate seats.
This GOP overrepresentation [in the Senate] is due to Republican success in low-population, conservative states in the West and South that have the same representation - two senators per state - as high-population states like California. The 52 senators confirming Clarence Thomas in 1991 represented only 48.6 percent of the nation's population, showing that senators representing a minority of voters can confirm a justice for life. A body as unrepresentative as the Senate should not be confirming lifetime appointments, especially by simple majority vote.
I know a lot of people have this instinct not to 'mess with' the Constitution, but that's a pathetic attitude for any citizen to take. It's suggesting that the citizenry of the late 18th century were somehow so much smarter and wise than the current citizenry that we would be foolish to amend their product.
I hope that pathetic attitude doesn't cause people to vote no on the 2008 ballot for an Illinois Constitutional Convention. We should review our constitution every twenty years -- state *and* federal. Because there are always better ways of running our government.