The U.S. Supreme Court and 'Good Behavior'
According to our Constitution our Supreme Court justices are not appointed “for life” as our political class says and our citizenry wrongly believes.
Article III, Section 1. “The judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the Supreme Court and the inferior courts, shall hold their offices during Good Behavior, and shall, at stated times, receive for their service, a compensation, which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.”
That’s the only section in the Constitution dealing with the terms of office of the judiciary and no where does the phrase “for life” exist. And no where does it explain how to evaluate the judge’s and justice’s “good behavior.”
It’s no secret to anyone whose been paying attention that from time to time judges and justices make “activist” decisions. They step outside the bounds of the law as written and rewrite the law to fit their own agenda or succumb to agenda-driven pressure from others. Nonetheless, their decisions rule unless overturned by a higher court, and, in the case of the Supreme Court, they rule. And as long as We the People accept the wrong belief that they are appointed for life and nothing can be done, we’ll probably continue to get that activism.
Since the Constitution doesn’t stipulate how to evaluate good behavior, or have a system for doing so, I would think that Congress has the power to do so, IF properly motivated. I don’t think it would require a constitutional amendment. It says that Congress shall have the power to determine if and when other “inferior courts” (federal) are established, and it grants Congress the power to determine salaries for justices. I would think they can determine this issue as well. That’s where We the People come in — to provide the motivation for Congress to act.
The number one issue before the Court presently is gay marriage. Approximately 4% of our society is openly gay but another unknown percentage support their claim to a “right” to marry another gay person. That leaves perhaps as much as 90+% of the country who do not support gay marriage for many reasons. My purpose is not to get into the pros and cons of that issue but to question why so few dictate to so many if the Court upholds that so-called “right” and redefines the term “marriage.” Will they have acted in “good behavior?” If they do overturn a 5,000-year-old definition of “marriage,” my guess is We the People in huge numbers will seek retribution in some manner. It will have destroyed “marriage” as we know it and the family unit which is the very building block of all societies. Less than 10% of our society, in cahoots with at least five Justices, will have changed 5,000 years of tradition with the blinking of an eye.
Should that occur, my hope is that sufficient numbers of members of Congress will want to take a closer look at the “good behavior” of our justices. Should that be the case, my suggested solution would be for Congress to pass a law requiring Supreme Court justices and federal judges to undergo a reconfirmation hearing in the Senate periodically. Maybe every seven years or so they would have to reappear before the Senate for reconfirmation and the Senate could then have the opportunity to evaluate their good behavior and thus reconfirm or not reconfirm. My guess is that behavior would improve knowing there was some accountability ahead.
Should that not be a viable option, or if “experts” have a better option or say it will require a constitutional amendment, so be it. We have a systemic problem already that has the potential of compounding big time and needs to be addressed and corrected.