Age limit and speed not suitable for Justices

An New York Times article published on April 12 tried to evaluate if age is an important factor in determining whether a Supreme Court Justice should retire.

The article’s author, Duke Law School Professor Paul D. Carrington, expressed his preference for a system – similar to the one in Great Britain – that would impose an age limit to Supreme Court Justices. The elevated average age of today’s Court is 69, and Carrington believes that this is one of the factors for the rather low number of cases heard every year. (about 75)

I believe Carrington is wrong in two separate instances: First of all, an age limit might cause more harm than good. The knowledge of a term coming to an end may bring some to speed up their decisions in order to finish many delayed works and to push harder for a proper agenda.

This problem is directly tied with the second issue that Carrington brings up and criticizes: The limited number of cases heard by the Justices each year. To invert this trend, the Justices would have to accept more cases every year and deliberate much quicker. Unfortunately, speedy processes frequently lead to poor decisions, such as in the case of Bush v. Gore right after the election of 2000.

Speed is a trend of today’s world that should not be forced on judicial or legislative branches. A newly-elected president, for example, is justly scrutinized from the moment he or she starts his or her term, but the expectations sometimes seem to be too high. Barack Obama, just like Franklin Roosevelt after his first election, has an economic plan that is being pushed forward, but we as a society want to see immediate results.

We live in a time where gratification needs to be instantaneous and decisions are made without meditation. Therefore, the success of a social-network such as Twitter must not come as a surprise. Twitter is the perfect platform on which we can share random thoughts with breath-taking speed.

An interesting study conducted by scientists at the University of South California shows that the urge to “tweet” or to update statuses on Facebook or LinkedIn could cause “potentially negative consequences” on our thought processes and evaluation of feelings.

The key word here is time. Time and patience is what has always characterized the Justices’ modus operandi. Therefore, to put pressure on the Justices by imposing age limits or a minimum of cases to be heard each year might end up hurting the delicate balance of wisdom that has always lived inside the Supreme Court Building.

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  1. Chris P

    Nick,

    I’m in agreement with you in disputing this idea.

    Mentioning speediness and the Supreme Court together brought to mind Brown vs. Board of Education, and the opinion’s landmark words, “with all deliberate speed.”




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