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With Judges and Justices Staying on the Bench Longer Than Ever, Do We Need a "Judicial Capacity Act"?

angry-judgeRep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland and 20 fellow Democrats introduced a bill last month called the Oversight Commission on Presidential Capacity Act (H.R.1987), which would create a medical body to determine whether the President is mentally and physically capable of discharging his duties. This bill is clearly aimed at a certain White House occupant.

As a nonpartisan organization, it has long been Fix the Court’s position that single-party bills are pointless. That said, the issue writ large – i.e., knowing whether our top public officials are operating at full mental capacity – should be an apolitical one, given that both parties should take care that the third branch is faithfully adjudicating various cases and controversies.

So if there is any way to pivot from this issue on a presidential level to talk about federal judges, we’re all ears. (Click here to send your members of Congress a letter calling for a Judicial Capacity Act.)

For our part, at the circuit level, we will continue to push for the creation of judicial wellness committees to ensure that appeals courts have the resources to deal with an aging corps of judges.

The Third, Fifth, Ninth and Tenth Circuits have created such committees. The First Circuit is considering creating one, and the 7th and D.C. Circuits do not have formal committees, per se, yet handle judicial wellness through more informal education and intervention programs.

The Judicial Conference of the U.S. has declined to create a nationwide program to foster cognitive health.

With long-term vacancies and longer life expectancies conspiring to increase the average length of federal judicial service and, with it, the potential for cognitive impairment, FTC believes that appeals courts should be doing more to ensure that its judges are holding their offices while operating at full mental capacity.

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