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Term Limits vs. Court-Packing: Why the Former Makes More Sense

We often get asked, why term limits for the Supreme Court?

First off, term limits would keep an unseemly amount of power out of the hands of a few individuals. It’s a popular reform – even more so than court-packing. And it’s a policy that every other court of last of resort the world over has implemented – that or a mandatory retirement age.

Then we’re asked, how would term limits work?

Let’s assume that the current justices are grandfathered out of any new term limits law and that they’ll serve on average 27 years. Let’s also assume there are no retirements in presidential election years, and let’s begin the calculations this year.

2019: Roberts, Thomas, Ginsburg, Breyer, Alito, Sotomayor, Kagan, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh (9 justices)

2021: Term limits law passes, Ginsburg retires, add Justice A: Roberts, Thomas, Breyer, Alito, Sotomayor, Kagan, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, A (9 justices)

2023: Breyer retires, add Justice B: Roberts, Thomas, Alito, Sotomayor, Kagan, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, A, B (9 justices)

2025: Add Justice C: Roberts, Thomas, Alito, Sotomayor, Kagan, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, A, B, C (10 justices)

2027: Thomas retires, add Justice D: Roberts, Alito, Sotomayor, Kagan, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, A, B, C, D (10 justices)

2029: Add Justice E: Roberts, Alito, Sotomayor, Kagan, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, A, B, C, D, E (11 justices)

2030: Alito retires (10 justices)

2031: Add Justice F: Roberts, Sotomayor, Kagan, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, A, B, C, D, E, F (11 justices)

2033: Roberts retires, add Justice G: Sotomayor, Kagan, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, A, B, C, D, E, F, G (11 justices)

2035: Sotomayor retires, add Justice H: Kagan, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H (11 justices)

2037: Add Justice I: Kagan, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I (12 justices)

2038: Kagan retires (11 justices)

2039: Justice A retires (18 years after appointment), add Justice J: Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J (11 justices)

2041: Justice B retires, add Justice K: Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K (11 justices)

2042: Gorsuch retires (10 justices)

2043: Justice C retires, add justice L: Kavanaugh, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L (10 justices)

2045: Justice D retires, Kavanaugh retires, add Justice M: E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M (9 justices becomes permanent)

Supreme Court Term Limits Would Fix the Confirmation Debacle

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