Skip to main content

Rick Perry has made so many goofs and gaffes during his 15 minutes of "Not-Mitt-Romney" fame that it almost feels like kicking a man when he's down to point out that he's still making stupid, ill-considered proposals on the campaign trail.  Today's howler is his proposal to impose term limits on federal judges.  According to Business Week and several other sites, while campaigning in Iowa today"Perry said term limits for federal judges are needed because too many are legislating from the bench. He said future appointees wouldn’t receive lifetime positions under his plan."

I will leave untouched his unsupported assertion that judges are "legislating from the bench," recognizing that it is an article of faith among the conservative voters to whom he is making his appeal.  However, someone really ought to suggest to Mr. Perry that he take a moment to read the Constitution before he proposes judicial term limits.  

Article III of the Constitution states that federal judges "shall hold their Offices during good Behavior, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services a Compensation which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office."  This provision guarantees that federal judges will be appointed for life, or for as long as they want to serve, and can be removed only by impeachment.  The founding fathers created lifetime appointments precisely because they wanted to insulate the judicial branch from political pressure so that judges would be free to do what the law, not the majority, requires.  Indeed, Article III's lifetime appointment requirement was seen by the founders as a central element of the system of checks and balances they sought to create.  It was this provision that ensured that one of the three branches would be above the political fray and immune from what the founders feared might otherwise become a nation susceptible to mob-rule.  

The requirement of lifetime appointments, like the provision that prevents Congress or the president from reducing the salaries of federal judges, protects the judicial branch and guarantees that this nation will be ruled by laws, not men.  For more on this, Mr. Perry might like to read Federalist Paper No. 78, where Alexander Hamilton explained some of the basic principles of constitutional government with which Mr. Perry is unfamiliar.

If Mr. Perry wants to accomplish something positive for the judicial branch, he would do greater service by finding a way to attract and retain well-qualified candidates for the judiciary.  He might begin by announcing a plan to raise judicial salaries to prevent the exodus of experienced judges from the federal bench.  Federal judges have not had a raise in so long that most of them now earn less than a junior associate in a large law firm, and many, many times less than a lawyer with comparable experience.  In addition to asking some of our finest legal minds to work for these entry-level wages, we also subject judicial nominees to a gantlet of investigation, mistrust, and abuse as they navigate the Congressional approval process.  Unless something is done to reverse this trend, our judicial branch-- the most important check in the system of checks and balances-- is in serious trouble.

Mr. Perry's star is fading, and before too many primaries are done, its brief flickering light will be extinguished, probably for all time.  But in the mean time someone needs to explain to conservatives that the judicial branch is in dire straits, and that in perpetuating a mythology of liberal judges legislating from the bench, they are undermining a central element of the constitutional system they claim to defend.

Originally posted to oythegoy on Tue Nov 15, 2011 at 11:57 AM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site