In the News
October 25, 2023

Bipartisan Legal Scholars Urge Supreme Court To Impose 18-Year Term Limits

Alison Durkee

TOPLINE Supreme Court justices should face 18-year term limits, a bipartisan working group of legal experts proposed in a new report released Wednesday, arguing the “vital” reform would help depoliticize the court as public trust in the institution remains low.


  • The report, published by a working group of scholars at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences that studied the Supreme Court, proposes Congress pass a statute that would establish 18-year term limits for Supreme Court justices.
  • The working group argues that doing so would preserve “judicial independence” while improving the court’s reputation and “reducing the incentives for strategic retirements and political campaign–style efforts focused on the nominations process.”
  • Justices would take “senior status” once their term is up, which means they wouldn’t be part of the court’s key nine justices, but could still take actions like serving on lower circuit courts, handling administrative tasks or taking part in Supreme Court opinions if the court would otherwise lack a quorum.
  • Setting an 18-year limit is in line with how long the average justice has historically served on the court, the report notes, and means presidents would be able to predictably appoint two justices per term, with no single president able to appoint a majority of justices on the court.
  • Implementing the term limits would require the court to temporarily expand its number of justices, as new justices would be added every two years but no term limits would be imposed on the justices already on the court, with the group predicting it would take until 2047 for the process to complete and for there to permanently be nine justices on the court.
  • The working group’s members include such experts as U.S. Circuit Judge Diane Wood, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton, Harvard law professor Charles Fried, who served as U.S. solicitor general under President Ronald Reagan, and scholars from such institutions as Yale Law School, Georgetown Law School, Harvard Law School and University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School.
View full story: Forbes



Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship

Danielle Allen, Stephen B. Heintz, and Eric P. Liu