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New Report Details Dozens of High-Level Federal Positions Subject to Term Limits. Does SCOTUS Feel Left Out?

Read the report here: (and an easy-to-read chart is here)

While no one can force your postman (probably) or your federal appeals court judge (definitely) to step down, top officials in all three branches must leave their leadership posts – or leave their jobs entirely – after they have served a designated amount of time, a fact that contradicts the popular notion that government jobs are yours for the keeping.

Fix the Court’s latest report details many of these positions, from FBI director to CFPB director to FISA Court judge, and thus demonstrates that the world would not end if Supreme Court justices were subject to a finite the term of service.

“Limiting the tenure of top officials is not only common in the federal government, but it’s also feasible and prudent, so long as the terms are sufficiently long and those subject to limited tenures have guaranteed independence from the political winds of the day,” FTC executive director Gabe Roth said.

Many term-limited federal government positions, especially those that are more apolitical, are purposefully designed to stretch past a single presidential term. For example, the chairman and vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff may serve three two-year terms, or longer in times of war; FBI directors (typically) serve for 10 years; and Federal Reserve Board governors can serve for 14 years.

Though members of Congress may be reelected for decades on end, they are subject to term limits when it comes to certain leadership positions. Senators and representatives may serve only for six years as chairman of a committee or subcommittee. (In the House, serving as ranking member counts toward that six-year mark; in the Senate, it does not.) This rule has effectively acted as a term limit for some members who chose to retire over remaining in Congress without their gavels.

Although Supreme Court justices serve for life, hundreds of federal judges – albeit Article I judges – are subject to term limits. These jurists sit on bankruptcy, tax and military courts across the country and generally have terms in the 14- to 16-year range, though some may be reappointed.

Finally, some Article III life-tenured judges are subject to term limits when it comes to other roles within the judiciary. The chief judge of a U.S. district court or a U.S. court of appeals serves for a term of seven years or until age 70, whichever occurs first. Members of the U.S. Sentencing Commission serve six-year terms with the possibility of a single reappointment. And the 11 federal judges appointed to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, often called the FISA Court, serve for a single, staggered seven-year term, as do the three judges on the FISA Court of Review.

For more information on why Supreme Court justices should be subject to term limits, click here.

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