Thursday, February 18, 2010

Amend the Judiciary

Many on the left and the right are allegedly very upset over the controversial (and frequently misrepresented) Citizens United v. FEC (pdf) SCOTUS decision.

Some take this as support for Congress to change campaign finance laws. I'd like to suggest we take things one step farther.

Let's change the judiciary.

As currently understood, the Supreme Court is almost all-powerful. Justices receive lifetime appointments, and the only way to deal with an unpopular SCOTUS ruling is to amend the Constitution — no matter how crazy or asinine the decision.

The framers of the Constitution thought the courts would be the weakest branch of the government. (I think they believed if we didn't like their decision, we'd just tell them to kiss off.) They were wrong. (Our commitment to law keeps us from collectively flipping them the bird.)

As it stands, the Supreme Court is very nearly an oligarchy. Their appointment is far removed from the democratic process, and it is almost impossible to unseat one of them.

It's time to change some things.

I propose the Judicial Power Amendment with two provisions:

1) Federal judge and Supreme Court justice appointments will be for a term not to exceed fifteen years.

2) A Supreme Court decision may be vacated by agreement of the President and two-thirds of each house of Congress.

Neither of these provisions seriously limit the power or independence of the courts, but it brings them back down to earth a bit. They, and all of government, need to be reminded that the power to govern in this country is supposed to rest with we the people, not the friends of the powerful.

What do you think? Too much? Not enough? What would you change?

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