Some thoughts on changing SCOTUS nominations

Topics: Democracy
11 Apr 2010

From: Ervan Darnell

It's a shame that SCOTUS nominations are so partisan (Bush's nomination
of Harriet Miers was ridiculous). If Obama were willing to accept a
moderate judge instead of a liberal replacement for Stevens, perhaps he
could fix the problem going forward by:

Create a non-partisan panel whose job it is to create objective criteria
for justice selection, e.g. some mix of years of federal judging
experience, number of decisions referenced, percentage of decisions
sustained on review. The panel would not choose the persons in any way.
Since the Senate votes on judges, let them create a position to apply
the panel's criteria as a filter and present the top 10 (or any fixed
number) choices to the President. I suggest the Senate create the
position to apply the criteria since it would be less partisan than
leaving it to the executive, even this would traditionally be an
executive-branch position. Obviously, the process must be entirely
transparent and based on objective criteria so anyone can check it. The
NYT and Washington Time had better get the same list.

The hard part is making this adhere to future presidents so that the net
effect is not to shift the balance either left or right. The best that
can be done is possibly set a precedent and get enough other players
invested in it that future presidents will be hard pressed to break with
it. Or, amend the Constitution to make it fixed.

Another possible reform is to set a term-limit for justices (25 years
maybe?). The problem now is that Presidents seek inexperienced justices
by virtue of youth so that their influence will last longer. Also,
justices serve longer than they wish too so as to wait for a party of
their choice to be in power. That's not a good dynamic either.