Santa Fe New Mexican
Let’s fix broken Supreme Court
The Supreme Court is now just as political as the other two branches of our federal government. The framers of the Constitution would not be happy.
The U.S. Supreme Court is not functioning at all well. It is now just as political as the other two branches of our federal government. The framers of the Constitution would not be happy. If it were written today, it would not be done by just white, property-owning men. Hopefully, it would still be guided by common sense based on the moral teachings of most religions and the findings of the best scientists. Here are two ideas I suggest be included in a revision:
Justices would be term-limited. Eighteen years would be a suitable term. This would be long enough for most careers. A second term would be a possibility for someone young enough. Retirement could be supplemented by appointment to another prestigious judgeship. The timing would provide that one justice be appointed in each presidential term. This would minimize the political maneuvering involved currently. It wouldn’t help with the current makeup right away but would help in time.
Court decisions would require more than a simple majority. After all, the justices are chosen from among the smartest and most highly qualified, and they must adhere to their interpretation of the Constitution and largely to prior decisions. This would suggest that decisions would be unanimous in most cases and differences in opinion could be ironed out judiciously. Rarely would not all nine agree. In such cases, at least six would be required for the decision to be
implemented (note the concept of a supermajority used by the Senate). Five would not be sufficient.
If these changes were made, some difficult decisions might then be addressed. For example, a compromise on abortion might be based on the commonsense premise that it is morally repugnant but practically necessary. One such compromise might be that it would be illegal to abort a fetus after it would be born alive, say after 24 weeks gestation, except in cases of incest, rape or risk to the life of the mother. Not acceptable to all, this approach might good enough for most people.
Another urgent issue is gun control. The compromise might be that ownership be limited to guns suitable for hunting or self-protection. These guns would have to be registered. Anything appropriate for military use, such as automatic weapons, would require the owner joining a well-regulated militia, such as the National Guard, as is specified now in the Constitution.
Making the changes I am urging would involve legal action by Congress and the president and possibly require constitutional amendments. This means we must await favorable election results.
Bill Maxon, Ph.D., is in his 93rd year after a career managing biochemical process research and development for a pharmaceutical company. He retired to pursue a love of making art, first sculpture and then painting.