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Chris Geidner reports a new poll by Democracy Corps and obtained in advanced, and published by Buzzfeed in, New Poll: Americans Think The Supreme Court Is Political, Closed Off, And Got Citizens United Wrong.

WASHINGTON — Only about a third of Americans believe the Supreme Court decides cases based on the law alone, according to new polling data about the court.
According to the new poll, Americans believe the Supreme Court justices are political, letting their personal views sway their decisions — an opinion held across party lines. And more than three-quarters of Americans oppose the Citizens United ruling four years after the Supreme Court handed down the landmark campaign finance decision.

By large margins, Americans say they would also like to see more openness and accountability from the Supreme Court — on topics from access to courtroom proceedings to financial disclosures and ethics rules — as well as an end to lifetime terms.

Geidner tells us other polling from Pew and Gallup show the "court's favorability at historic lows." 71% of respondents favored letting television camera record and broadcast the court's proceedings.

Majorities of Republican, Democratic, and Independent respondents all told the pollsters that “the current U.S. Supreme Court justices often let their own personal or political views influence their decisions” — 54% of Democrats, 62% of Republicans, and 63% of Independents, for a total result of 60% of respondents agreeing with the statement. Only 36% of respondents agree that “the current U.S. Supreme Court justices usually decide their cases based on legal analysis without regard to their own personal or political views.”

A majority of respondents would favor term limits for justices as well as requiring them to follow the U.S. Judicial Code of Conduct.  

The poll survey 1,004 Americans over 18 years of age, between April 16th to 24th. It has a M.O.E of 3.1% at the 95% confidence level.

9:39 AM PT: When our constitutional framers were designing our government, they set the terms of the House for two years so our government would be responsive to changes in public sentiment, set the term of the President at four years, the Senate  at three sets of 6 year staggered terms, and then set SCOTUS terms to life time appointments to provide an anchor and protection against shifting public opinions affecting having too much affect on our foundation legal principles. VClib has proposed 18 year term limits. An 18, 20, or 24 year term limit might be a reasonable compromise.

With the advent of extreme longevity breakthroughs, I think we should consider having some limits, even if only a 50 - 100 rule. 50 years of service or 100 years old whichever comes first. Otherwise, we might still have Chief Justice Robert's brain floating in a jar of neuro-fluids handing down rulings in 2150.  

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Comment Preferences

  •  I've... (14+ / 0-)

    been asserting that Democrats running for office should be actively campaigning against SCOTUS, especially those running for Senate seats. This would seem to show that there is fertile ground there.

    "It's almost as if we're watching Mitt Romney on Safari in his own country." -- Jonathan Capeheart

    by JackND on Wed May 07, 2014 at 07:57:45 AM PDT

  •  Ah Yes, Term Limits (13+ / 0-)

    So when they leave the bench they can go to work for all the corporations whose cases they've been hearing.

    Term limits followed by life imprisonment for themselves and their families, that would make a credible reduction in the temptation for judicial corruption.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Wed May 07, 2014 at 07:58:26 AM PDT

    •  You are quick at catching these angles Gooserock. (6+ / 0-)

      That hadn't occurred to me yet this morning. I'd better have a cup of coffee. Thanks for commenting.

      "Seriously, Folks, WTH?" - ("What the Heck? "h/t Joan McCarter, Seriously, Florida. WTF?)

      by HoundDog on Wed May 07, 2014 at 08:00:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It's a Well Worn Argument From for example Thom (3+ / 0-)

        Hartmann about term limits for any office. The other argument is that only the unelected bureaucrats and the lobbyists will have long institutional memory in the case of term limits.

        We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

        by Gooserock on Wed May 07, 2014 at 08:26:05 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Do you think the Justices care at all what there (9+ / 0-)

      public approval ratings are? I suspect some of them are pleased they are low and privately may feel that low ratings indicated to themselves they are doing their jobs the way they should.

      I'm not agreeing with that sentiment, just saying I wouldn't be surprised if some of them don't have a defiant streak to their personality - like Antonin Scalia for example, who seems to go out of his way to cheese people off.  And, perhaps Thomas as well.

      "Seriously, Folks, WTH?" - ("What the Heck? "h/t Joan McCarter, Seriously, Florida. WTF?)

      by HoundDog on Wed May 07, 2014 at 08:04:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Term limits for members of the SCOTUS (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        HoundDog, awcomeon, oortdust

        are popular on a bipartisan basis. The term of 18 years seems to be the most popular. Even some extreme right wingers like Mark Levin are avid fans of term limits for members of the SCOTUS. It would take a Constitutional Amendment but if some well funded non-partisan group really took charge on this I think it could be done.

        "let's talk about that" uid 92953

        by VClib on Wed May 07, 2014 at 08:49:24 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  What would you think of an age limit? Like may 75? (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ET3117, oortdust

          Or 80 years max.

          With some of the "extreme age extension" research I've been reading about, it is conceivable we might be stuck with Chief Justice Roberts well past 2050.

          At the very least I believe we should have a 50 - 100 rule. 50 years on the bench or 100 years old, whichever comes first. People may laugh now. But, try to pass this 100 years from now when we have corporate-AI-cyborg-humanoid hybrids living 300 years or more and voting will be proportion to your net worth and people will wish we had done this now.

          From an extreme longevity point of few the brain is the limiting organ which some thing could last 300 years if well maintained. All the other organs are replaceable.

          If the Koch Brothers set up a trust fund for John Roberts brain it could be floating in a batch of cerebral spinal fluid continuously rejuvenated with stem cells and freed from the spatial constraints of the skull issue rulings in 2400.  

          "Seriously, Folks, WTH?" - ("What the Heck? "h/t Joan McCarter, Seriously, Florida. WTF?)

          by HoundDog on Wed May 07, 2014 at 09:13:15 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I really like 18 years, but don't like mandatory (0+ / 0-)

            ages, although I could be convinced that 80 might be a good limit. We have had numerous Justices, from both sides, who stayed well beyond the time when they no longer could do the job.

            "let's talk about that" uid 92953

            by VClib on Wed May 07, 2014 at 11:47:11 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  I would prefer a minimum age over a maximum, (0+ / 0-)

            which would make it more likely that we get more experienced people on the Court, rather than the youngest plausible candidate as we do now. There are lots of good candidates who age off the list way too early.

            If the problem is justices serving too long on the Court, require presidents to choose older nominees. If the goal is to remove the ability of a president to affect the Court for 40 or 50 years, there's a natural way of doing so. When the science permits -- which I don't think it does yet, but eventually will -- build in a cognitive assessment to nudge or remove justices if necessary.

            I don't for a moment think this will happen, but I think it's got as much to recommend it as a maximum age limit when no such limits apply to, e.g., Congress. I don't share your more extreme fears, but a 50/100 rule wouldn't be terrible, and it's creative!

        •  18 year terms (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          with a term coming  up every 2 years would ensure that every president could appoint 2 justices and none would ever appoint more than 4. It would also prevent justices from stepping down strategically, that is, waiting until a president comes along that the justice agrees with ideologically so that her/his replacement would be ideologically similar.

          To prevent direct corruption, ex-justices could be barred from taking a position with any corporation or law firm that had any connection with any of the cases the justice had ruled on. Strict enough requirements would allow them only to retire forever, teach at a law school, or practice law on a very local basis. This should not be onerous since most justices are appointed in their 50s or 60s and an 18-year term would take them into their 70s or 80s.

          Public service should be a service to the public, not a chance to get rich.

      •  Most justices care about the reputation (0+ / 0-)

        of the Court as a whole -- having no standing army to enforce their rulings, their legitimacy derives from it to a large extent. I know of no evidence that the justices care about their individual reputations among the general public at all, and I hope they don't. Being human, they probably care a fair amount about the approval of their fellow judges, who have some basis for assessing them, and to a lesser extent legal academics. There's a fair amount of peer pressure, I think, but it's mostly in the building.

    •  Life imprisonment would be unpopular, but (9+ / 0-)

      your point is bang on.

      I don't know how you could ever get it to fly in this country, but if there were some way to do so, I'd think a hard lockout from EVER working for ANY corporation on whose case a SCOTUS Justice had ruled would be thoroughly appropriate.

      Not all people are human; not all humans are people.

      by Jon Sitzman on Wed May 07, 2014 at 08:13:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  There's no Getting Around the Fact That Our (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Jon Sitzman, HoundDog, dewtx, thomask, oortdust

        system needs a massive amount of complex cobbling to cope with our world. The New Deal proved that in spades.

        I don't think there's a solution to the issue of Justices consistent with the Bill of Rights. But that's also true for establishing and maintaining a pertinently, accurately informed electorate.

        We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

        by Gooserock on Wed May 07, 2014 at 08:30:24 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Won't let me rec your post? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I'm clicking the button, but for some reason the site isn't giving you my rec.

          Oh well, not a big deal.  Just know the sentiment is there.

          Not all people are human; not all humans are people.

          by Jon Sitzman on Wed May 07, 2014 at 09:13:13 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Are you logged in? I've had trouble posting (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Jon Sitzman, ItsaMathJoke

            sometimes lately and discovered DKos is often opening to versions on my computer one logged in one not, and skipping back and forth apparently randomly.

            So I can be typing in my diary entry editor, which I could not have entered without being logged in, then when trying to save, get an error message that I am not authorized to post in this account, and see that at some point during my post entry I was logged out.

            Also, last week one of our new autistic user wrote to me that he could not find tip or rec buttons, and I recognized the same problem.

            If you close or pull down the top window, you will probably discover another DKos window open underneath in which you are still logged in. Close the one you are not logged in on.

            Every now and then close all your windows. And restart your browser, and periodically look up in the upper right hand corner of DKos if you see a little login it means somehow you got logged out. Sometimes this can happen but you still see the logged in screen.

            What is happening I think is to save on bandwidth, the DKos version that is on you computer using stored images to display much of the image you see on your computer screen.

            And, what is going across your internet connections are just updated portions of that.

            I discovered this because sometimes after I post I discover a diary is not perfect, and if it hits the fprec list this can be embarrassing so I rush to correct every possible error and improve the writing, or sometimes add a pix. Even though I've successful done this, my computer will sometimes display the previous version for a while. Seems to depend on the time of day, as one would expect based on utilization of capacity.


            You're right Joe, its the thought that counts. .... Wait a second! This is backwards! It's the rec's that count. Go back and make sure you are logged in, Please.   LOL

            "Seriously, Folks, WTH?" - ("What the Heck? "h/t Joan McCarter, Seriously, Florida. WTF?)

            by HoundDog on Wed May 07, 2014 at 09:25:21 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  It was actually just a recognition delay, but that (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              is all very good information - thank you!

              And trust me HoundDog - you've got plenty of recs from me, and whether or not we always agree you probably will.

              (BTW - Jon, not Joe - no worries, I get that a lot ^_^)

              Not all people are human; not all humans are people.

              by Jon Sitzman on Wed May 07, 2014 at 09:41:45 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

    •  more likely (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      big-name law firms, like, for example, Latham&Watkins. Ones that can pay enough to keep them living comfortably, but don't require a lot of actual work.

      (Is it time for the pitchforks and torches yet?)

      by PJEvans on Wed May 07, 2014 at 09:32:27 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  So long as they are barred from (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RandomNonviolence, HoundDog

      private sector jobs thereafter, I'd consider supporting it.

      I've never left a blank space on a ballot... but I will not vote for someone [who vows] to spy on me. I will not do it. - dclawyer06

      Trust, but verify. - Reagan
      Vote, but Occupy. - commonmass

      by Words In Action on Wed May 07, 2014 at 09:39:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I oppose term limits for Justices (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The longest serving Supreme Court Justice ever was a heroic progressive who was considered to succeed FDR, William O. Douglas.  The Warren Court would have been much less effective if Warren himself had had to step down after, for example, ten years.  You have to take the bad with the good.

  •  SCOTUS is best example of government distrust (5+ / 0-)

    When the Teabaggers rail against "Big Gub'mint" and Federal over-reach, they conveniently attack the black man in the W.H. and ignore the real problem, the Roberts Corporate Court.

    To only dream/hallucinate of channeling Tea Party wrath against Citizens United and the SCOTUS,  in conjunction with Occupy and progressives.

    That's a wild thought, yeah, pass the drug test pee cup.

  •  How about ... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RandomNonviolence, HoundDog

    Supreme Court justices are appointed for life, but after 20 years (or whatever) they become "emeritus", available for consultation but are no longer on the active voting bench, not deciding cases? But they are still barred from other activity, in particular anything prejudicial to the court. I'm thinking no media interviews etc.

    This is not a sig-line.

    by Joffan on Wed May 07, 2014 at 09:28:11 AM PDT

  •  Let them be appointed initially, but then (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    let the public vote on their continuance every six years thereafter.

    And bar them from the private sector for life.

    A good pension ought to be sufficient.

    I've never left a blank space on a ballot... but I will not vote for someone [who vows] to spy on me. I will not do it. - dclawyer06

    Trust, but verify. - Reagan
    Vote, but Occupy. - commonmass

    by Words In Action on Wed May 07, 2014 at 09:40:52 AM PDT

  •  It's not the composition of the Court, rather the (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eric Nelson

    violation of the political question doctrine, that the public intuitively gets. They may not know what it is, but they get that there is supposed to be a line of separation of powers. In a democracy the law is what the lawmakers make and the executive vetoes or signs. Interesting that the GOP'ers and independents show more sensitivity, since it's Dems that more loudly protect the Court, citing Brown out of context and forgetting the restrictions in Marbury and Ogden. Lessig a leading light but no Constitutional scholar (as say Bruce Ackerman is), at the Vermont legislature recently said, if Congress is a problem then amend. The public is more reality-based than Lessig, they get after being battered by Roberts for 8 years that it's the corrupt Court that's the problem, that disenfranchised them (certainly not the McCain-Feingold last stand), and that ate Congress for lunch.  

    •  Very good point.. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      A violation of the political question.

      And one that - imo - Scalia disguises as "originalism"; when the constitution does not cover many things that Scalia pretends it does - then lays his own "interpretation" on it calling it "originalism"

      political question n. [doctrine] the determination by a court (particularly the Supreme Court) that an issue raised about the conduct of public business is a "political" issue to be determined by the legislature (including Congress) or the executive branch and not by the courts. Since 1960 the U. S. Supreme Court has been willing to look at some questions previously considered "political," such as "one-man-one-vote," as constitutional issues..
      ..but by saying that it is a corruption problem..
      ..after being battered by Roberts for 8 years that it's the corrupt Court that's the problem..
      ..then isn't it indeed also  a problem of composition? Roberts , Scalia, to name two problems
      •  To say it has to do with composition is to perhaps (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Eric Nelson

        miss the rule of law problem. It's not what certain Court ideologies or partisans will do with a law. It's whether the Court will respect the law made by the
        elected branches. If a judge doesn't like a law, they should run for Congress. Surrendering the very existence of the republican form of government to what one or two people think- actually the shift was Roberts and Alito- when that happens, as in Dred Scott the Court's power grab over the elected branches is at issue, not just someone's opinion. Taney's Court started a civil war against the North leading Lincoln's election to nullify DS.

        Baker v. Carr at least used a test to invade an obvious political question. Now political questions are a Court favorite, no explanation needed. The Marshall Court pretty much followed Madison's departmentalist approach, and in Ogden said the Court could strike down legislation but only when beyond a reasonable doubt, which as in Brown implies Court unanimity. Lincoln developed a test requiring certain conditions including unanimity, which he got elected on, TR and FDR approved a similar view. Such judicial restraint is one way the U.S. stays a republic preventing the Court from legislating away democracy on fundamental political questions like elections. Luther v Borden. The Court has a tendency to encroach, Jefferson called them "miners and sappers".

        •  So if a president doesn't like a law.... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          and decides not to enforce it, then he should resign and run for Congress?

          •  Lincoln refused as President, if he had done (0+ / 0-)

            otherwise as to _Dred Scott_no Disneyworld in Florida. His party had remarkable congressional talent-Sumner, Trumbull, Stephens.  Presidents review constitutionality by the veto power,  Washington took argument on the first national bank before signing. Jackson reversed Washington on constitutional grounds, vetoed the second bank. The oath of office requires personal defense of the Constitution. Madison view was Court can't bind the other departments, still valid in Lincoln's day. Judicial supremacy a gilded age phenomenon with corrupt government, Taney vindicated, especially today by Roberts.

  •  I'm beginning to regard the majority of the (0+ / 0-)

    Supreme Court the way Willard/Marlow regards Kurtz in the Heart of Darkness/Apocalypse Now.

    "You cannot win improv." Stephen Colbert ( at 16:24).

    by Publius2008 on Wed May 07, 2014 at 09:47:06 AM PDT

  •  Article III section 1; the Good behavior clause.. (0+ / 0-) explained by lawyer Jonathan Turley:

    Still, both the language and the weight of historical evidence indicate that the Good Behavior Clause was intended to refer to life tenure rather than to a distinct standard for removal. However, just as the Good Behavior Clause reminds the other branches that the judiciary is truly independent, it also reminds judges that life tenure is not a license for the wanton or the corrupt. It is in this sense both a shield and a sword—an affirmation of judicial independence and a reservation for judicial removal.
     Then there is advocating sedition from the bench.

    Both approaches seem less than likely of success

    But here Thom Hartman has some interesting analysis. Lack of impartiality is very apparent with Scalia, Roberts and Thomas - imo

    Thom Hartmann: Time for Congress to Impeach Justice Antonin Scalia - Thu Jun 28, 2012, 11:18 AM

    On Tuesday - in his dissenting opinion to the Arizona immigration case - Justice Scalia lashed out at President Obama - for not doing enough to enforce immigration laws. With his blatant impartiality and total disregard for the institution of the Supreme Court - isn't it time Justice Scalia was impeached?
    Here is more :
    In 1804 - the House of Representatives impeached Samuel Chase on charges of judicial misconduct. And to this day - Samuel Chase is the only Supreme Court Justice to ever be impeached. Ultimately- Chase remained on the bench - escaping getting kicked off by the skin of his teeth when the Senate failed to muster up the 2/3 majority needed to remove Chase from the Supreme Court. He would serve on the bench for 7 more years - before dying of a heart attack in 1811. And that's the end of Samuel Chase's story.

    But in 1982 - the man was "reincarnated" - when Ronald Reagan appointed Antonin Scalia to be a justice on the Supreme Court. And on Tuesday - in his dissenting opinion against the majority's decision to strike down three out of four provisions in Arizona's controversial anti-immigration laws - Justice Antonin Scalia had his "Samuel Chase moment." He went unhinged - and publicly ripped President Obama for not enforcing immigration laws - just a few days after the President had announced that the nation would no longer deport young undocumented immigrants who were brought her as children and are now in school or working, keeping their nose clean. Scalia said: "To say, as the court does, that Arizona contradicts federal law by enforcing applications of the immigration act that the president declines to enforce boggles the mind...if securing it's territory in the fashion is not within the power of Arizona, we should cease referring to it as a sovereign state."

    So in 1803 Samuel Chase criticized the President for trying to expand voter rights and got impeached. In 2012 - Antonin Scalia criticized the President for trying to save young undocumented immigrants from deportation...but there's virtually no chance he'll be impeached. But it goes beyond Scalia's comments on immigration - the guy has a history of tarnishing the integrity of the Supreme Court.

    Then there's the latest Scalia screw up. And exposure of his fake "originalsm" as shilling for the teabaggers - states rights activism.
    Yes, he interpreted his own decision wrong last week. But the real embarrassment: his incoherent philosophy
    Thx HoundDog
  •  The notion that the polled public (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    (a) could accurately state the holding of Citizens United, and (b) has the remotest clue what the Code of Judicial Conduct is, says, or applies to is -- to understate the matter -- hilarious. A majority of commenters on this site get them both wrong with regularity.

    The public has lost faith in the Court for any number of reasons (historically, these things are cyclical), but the big two are Roe v. Wade and Bush v. Gore. Suspicions of lawless partisanship thus firmly anchored, each side's handlers need only be ready to reinforce the rage when the inevitable occasions arise -- U.S. v. Windsor, Citizens United, something for everyone in NFIB v. Sebelius -- and reinforce they do. Impeach! Bomb! Jail the judges!! And that's just on this site.

    So while I believe the result of such polling -- a decline in the Court's status -- I place no weight at all on the supposed reasons for it. Propaganda works. If it didn't, there'd be no need to flush Rush.

    As for term limits: There's nothing new about ideas for term limits for the Supreme Court. It's not an idea we have to start from scratch here and pick numbers out of a hat. There's a whole body of scholarship on the issue, including whether it would actually require a constitutional amendment. I've cited it here several times. 18 years works logistically for a lot of reasons, but it's not magic.

    But let's be clear: Whatever the goo-goo reasons in favor of term limits, for the people who actually have the power to impose term limits on justices (barring Article V, I suppose), the goal is to weaken the power of one branch relative to the others. The point at which such legislation or amendment will be achievable will be the point at which one party believes it will be able to control the legislature most of the time for the forseeable future.

    I only know one party likely to reach such a conclusion in my lifetime. And it isn't my party.

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