Southern Views

Granted, the hoopla, the hype and the horrible insults that presidential candidates heap upon one another, and us, is not the most beneficial aspect of a campaign for the White House.

In debates, the candidates seem to have knee-jerk responses to one another. However, one of the campaign benefits for us is that the candidates actually put some thought to their presidential platforms and proposals. Platforms in print are usually far less entertaining, but much more beneficial, than listening to one of the debates, their trading barbs, or to sound bites.

Perhaps the most intriguing of the many proposals in this Republican campaign season is the proposal by a candidate who dropped out of the race, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, concerning the Supreme Court. His proposal would hit quite a nerve with many people, who are concerned that the Court, whether it has a liberal or conservative bent, has overstepped its boundaries in some recent decisions.

Here’s what Governor Perry had posted as one of his ideas on his web site, where he calls for …

“… a Constitutional Amendment creating 18-year terms (for the Supreme Court) staggered every two years, so that each of the nine justices would be replaced in order of seniority every other year. This would be a prospective proposal, and would be applied to future judges only. Doing this would move the court closer to the people by ensuring that every President would have the opportunity to replace two justices per term, and that no court could stretch its ideology over multiple generations. Further, this reform would maintain judicial independence, but instill regularity to the nominations process, discourage Justices from choosing a retirement date based on politics, and will stop the ever-increasing tenure of Justices.”

There are several points in this proposal which sound interesting:

  • Lifetime appointments for Supreme Court judges would continue. However, at the end of their 18-year Supreme Court term, Gov. Perry would then allow them to retire, or move to another Federal Court without Congressional approval.
  • With each president assured of two appointments during his four years of office, any changes to the make-up and outlook of the court, therefore, would be gradual.
  • The timing of appointments to the court would be pre-determined, not waiting on death, a judge’s cantankerousness, or senility, to arrive.
  • Presidents now often appoint younger Justices, wanting to give them longer tenure on the bench, thereby anticipating certain political slants would continue longer. But under appointments who could serve no longer than 18 years, older, more experienced Justices might be appointed, since the term is known in advance.
  • It is a step toward reforming the judiciary, while still keeping the Supreme Court well-insulated from whims of a single party, a president, or of Congress.
  • This proposal would move toward solving the problem of Justices having longer and longer tenure, sometimes 30-40 years, something that does not always benefit our country.

While Governor Perry has put forth the idea, it is not a new one. It was first proposed in 2002, by a coalition of people from the left and right, and has floated around since then.

Now it resurfaces, courtesy Governor Perry. It’s refreshing to read of innovative reform ideas which watchers from all political persuasions can discuss openly…and who knows, perhaps some day agree.

Photo by onecle via Flickr photostream, used with Creative Commons 2.0 License.
Elliott Brack

Elliott Brack

Elliott Brack is a native Georgian and veteran newspaperman. He published the weekly Wayne County Press for 12 years; was for 13 years the vice president and general manager of Gwinnett Daily News, and for 13 years was associate publisher of the Gwinnett section of The Atlanta Journal and Constitution. He now publishes, in retirement, Web sites on Gwinnett County,, and Georgia news,