Originally published in The Washington Post on March 23, 2017.


Legal scholars and political scientists increasingly question whether life tenure remains a good idea for Supreme Court justices. While scholars disagree about the exact numbers, our Supreme Court justices are serving longer and longer terms; presidents have incentives to choose younger and younger nominees; and the justices themselves appear to delay retirement in the hope of having an ideologically compatible president select their replacements. Moreover, the confirmation process has become increasingly contentious, culminating last year in Senate Republicans refusing to even grant a hearing to President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland.

As a result, many scholars propose a shift to staggered 18-year terms. What are the pros and cons of such a change? This article breaks down the positives and negatives of term limits for Supreme Court justices.