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Life Tenure

By Matthew Yglesias

"Life Tenure"

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Mark Kleiman compares Sam Brownback’s view that we should have “term limits for judges” to Alberto Gonzalez’s belief that the constitution’s guarantee of habeas corpus doesn’t guarantee anyone in particular that right as examples of conservatives “shredding the constitution.”

I think that’s grossly unfair. Brownback is proposing changing a procedural element of our constitution. He’s not asserting that the president has some general right to fire judges he thinks have been on the bench for too long. He’s not even proposing to alter any of the rights-granting portions of the constitution — he’s proposing a procedural change. And not, I might add, a silly procedural change. Life tenure for federal judges seems like a bad idea to me — something that probably made more sense during the Founding generation when people didn’t live as long. But even if you think Brownback’s proposed modification is a bad idea, there’s clearly a world of difference between wanting to alter the structure of the constitution through legitimate means, and Bush/Gonzalez-style run-amok illegality.

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