Why Supreme Court Justices Serve For Life

A few potential United States Republican presidential
candidates have recently expressed their desire to limit the life-long terms served by federal
judges, as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg turns 82 with no plans of retiring. Although it’s
not the most game-changing campaign issue out there, it’s one that many people have
been questioning lately. Why do some judges serve for life? Well, for starters, Supreme Court Justices,
judges from the federal district courts, the courts of appeals, and the US Court of International
Trade are the only ones who get the life-term. Other state judges and the like are still
subject to term limits. In fact, virtually all other political offices in the three branches
of US government have very specific term limits as defined by the Constitution, before they
must seek re-election. But the framers were vague about federal judges. Article three,
section one says that they “shall hold their offices during good behavior”, which has
historically been interpreted to mean they can choose to serve “for life, unless they
get impeached”. So what’s the logic behind life-time appointments?
Well, the framers wanted judges to be as non-partisan as possible. By removing their need to run
for re-election on various political platforms every few years, federal judges are expected
to be impartial in their court decisions in order to uphold the law. As Chief Justice
John Marshall wrote, “The Government of the United States has been emphatically termed
a government of laws, and not of men”. But the problem, according to presidential
hopefuls Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, and others, is that in the last fifty years, these judges
have been serving way too long. And presidents don’t have as much say in the federal courts
as they used to. Indeed, from 1970 to 2006, the average tenure of Supreme Court justices
was about 26 years, compared to about 15 years in the eras before. Experts suggest this is
due to increased general life expectancy and younger appointments. Also, some point out that federal judges purposefully
postpone retirement until a president from their own party assumes office. And that’s
a very partisan, “government of MEN” thing to do. Both Justice Ginsburg and Justice Antonin
Scalia have made it clear that they only intend to leave when they could be replaced by someone
with similar views. Otherwise, they believe that their years of work on the court will
be undone. So is it worth it to give life terms to federal
judges in a democracy, where they remain virtually unaccountable to the public? Life terms are
supposed to encourage non-partisanship, but studies suggest that justices often vote along
partisan party lines. Additionally, if legislators attempt to give term limits to federal judges,
who would preside over the obligatory court battle? All these questions have been getting
more attention recently. No doubt the next presidential candidate will hinge a part of
his or her campaign on this issue. The supreme court in recent years, has been
more biased than ever. To hear how it got this way, check out our video here. Thanks
for watching TestTube, hit that subscribe button on your way out please!

99 Responses

  1. krim7 says:

    If you want term limits on Judges, then you need to make an amendment.

  2. wiilwaal says:

    Please do How dangerous is Somalia? 🙏🙏🙏

  3. Christopher Sciamanna says:

    The supreme court is horrible! For many reasons but the biggest one they ruled citizens united as constitutional and now we hve even more money in out politics and with money (as in campine donations) considered free speec now and a corperation like koch or mont santo can donate billions to a single candidate without it being known to the public

  4. Holly Snow says:

    I personally do not mind the life term. But eh…

  5. Tyler says:

    While it is fair to say that judges can be biased, as they are human after all, I see the addition of term limits/elections only making this problem worse not better.

  6. PyroLegends says:

    Mandetory retirement at age 75. Thats how we roll in the U.K.

  7. xierxu says:

    I guess they want to get a anti gun supreme judges in as soon as possible.

  8. J. Clarence Flanders says:

    Justices should serve life terms. Presidents and the Senate have all of the federal judiciary, which always have openings to fill, to leave their mark. Focussing on the Supreme Court is inappropriate, even though it is the most impactful, because the bulk of the work takes places at the lower courts.

    It should also be pointed out that for the most part, save for a few high profile cases, in most cases the split amongst the Justices isn't very close.

  9. Ghost Emblem says:

    Sounds like a good idea to me

  10. TheGiantPoopsicle says:

    It's simple. Because they have to make tough decisions that the populace might not understand or agree with.

  11. TheGiantPoopsicle says:

    The Judicial Branch is working just fine
    No need to change it

  12. 호이노스키댄 says:

    Why can't we just not be biased and vote on whether or not a particular choice is the best for all of us. People get so caught up in their political ideas that they forget to think about all of us collectively. If peopled stopped to think about most of the possible situations that could arise from something then maybe we would be in a better situation. But peoples judgments get clouded by religion, old ways, and political standing that they ignore a lot that comes with the job. That is just my two cents.

  13. Essero Eson says:

    If Congress want to be serious about limiting the term of Federal Judges then they need to do it in a Constitutional Amendment so it is not subject to Supreme Court review. Otherwise, the SCOTUS will simply find it unconstitutional, which it would be.

  14. whitefly2 says:

    The US Supreme court is not the same as the one called for in Article 3 which calles for Judges where the US Supreme court is staffed by Justices which are not the same thing as Judges.

  15. Aero Windwalker says:

    I think a better system is that we elect 50 judges and each time 10 judges will be randomly generated by algorithm for decisions.

  16. Krista A Martin says:

    Since the supreme court stated that citizens have the right to burn the American Flag in public, I would like to see them stand up for their own rights and have a U.S. Supreme Court Judge burn the American Flag in the U.S. Supreme Courtroom, or on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Courthouse.
    In my opinion that judgement was not civil.

  17. Krista A Martin says:

    This morning 5/9/15 the terror level was raised from Alfa to Bravo, yesterday I was stating that the Supreme Court ruling to allow citizens the right to burn the American flag in public was an uncivil ruling; I also stated that this decision was made in their own special interest and that as citizens who made that decision, they themselves as Justices should burn the American Flag perhaps even on my dad's Military base in Texas.
    This is all part of their Munich art show isn't it? This all goes along with their 5 year delay on deciding to honor the soldiers with their Purple Hearts.
    Wonder why I can't get my 9 million dollar art loan to buy land in my own country.

  18. Cool88Nerd says:

    Thank you for an intelligent youtube channel.

  19. runsontrails1 says:

    Justice Thomas is the only conservative on the court. We have a very slanted Supreme Court.

  20. Nora Is A Cutie says:

    0:20 Term limits are immoral, as they limit who people can vote for. Like how in the next election, you can't vote for Barack Obama, even if you like only Obama and don't like anyone else.

  21. Saint Boudreau says:

    The U.S. supreme court is not a body of ultimate legal authority in the U.S. court system.  Its work in theory is to maintain that any law used in court meets a U.S. constitutional  standard.   The old constitution fails to apply to an evolving U.S. society. And historically the U.S Supreme court follows the politics of the day.   It also follows the economics of the day.

      Many argue that the US supreme court is as outdated as the U.S Constitution itself.

    The US supreme court currently hears only about 7% of the writs submitted to it properly and with current valid law.  That is no guarantee that a citizens civil and legal rights by law in the U.S. will be upheld.

                                                                                              It is a lottery system.

    Ultimately ‘law’ is what ‘we the people’ say it is. 
    As we see the U.S. fed courts bow to popular sentiment. As with ‘’same sex marriage’’ and a ‘’second language in the U.S.’’ popular does not mean the majority who are mostly silent.

    It means the stand up and protest people.  Make it happen.

  22. Phlos Fysics Phan 42 says:

    I think they should have limited terms but not be allowed to be reelected, so that both issues are solved.

  23. Weight Loss Ninjas says:

    20 year term limits is good enough

  24. FinalLugiaGuardian says:

    I say put in place a one term limit for federal judges. The term shall run for 30 years from appointment or until the judge reaches age 85. One term, non renewable, that's it. And impartiality is still maintained.

  25. adonay sebhatu says:

    the US is a republic, not a democratic nation but i'm in favor of it anyways

  26. Hector Martinez says:

    appointments to life prevent political corruption. the pros out way the cons in this matter

  27. Derrick Reeves says:

    Got some new facses up there? zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!

  28. The Messenger says:

    Hope they change some precedents regarding gun laws.They've been getting it wrong for 150 years. click the eagle.

  29. Patrick John Correa De Guzman says:

    as long they are chosen by politicians, they will always be biased. election either by the people or the judges and lawyers seem not to be the answer either. Are they equally represented party wise? I don't know, but if not then maybe that could work. couldn't it?

  30. hydro1957 says:

    They serve the people as well as the Mickey Mouse Club.

  31. Charlie Mac says:

    they shouldn't serve for life, these justices serving now are ripping up the constitution piece by piece while people stand by and take it up da ass

  32. rob2049 says:

    Another rich fat fuck dead

  33. Hello says:

    I love TestTube. Awesome.

  34. Tyler Balkcom says:


  35. Jimmy a Geek says:

    This is Monopoly

  36. Metal Mindset says:

    im glad scalia is out of the supreme court

  37. Bruce Liu says:

    i think the republicans are looking for leverage

  38. Joe Kilroy says:

    I did not know Justice Thomas was black. That makes him Justice Uncle Tom

  39. Upcamehill says:

    Good behavior has nothing to do with length of time. If their rulings are not Constitutional they should be able to be impeached.

  40. Joshua Hoggan says:

    US isn't a democracy, let's be real.

  41. OfTheHunt says:

    I don't think anyone cares when Antonin Scalia wants to retire anymore…

  42. Andrea M. Aglio says:

    I'm an Italian Law student interested in Comparative Constitutional Justice and I would like to make a humble comparison between the Supreme Court of the U.S. and the Constitutional Court of Italy. I consider the method of appointment of Constitutional Judges in Italy as the best. 5 members out of 15 are nominated by the President of the Republic, 5 elected by the Parliament and 5 elected by Supreme Judges. Judges (or Justices) hold their offices for 9 years without any possibility of re election or nomination. This gives the possibility to have a Constitutional Court more sensitive to social transformations. This method would give to the U.S. 3 Justices nominated by a Democratic President, 3 elected by a Republican Senate and 3 out of any political influence. Last but not least life tenure can be considered a "crime" against democracy.

  43. Hazel Stritt says:

    As life expectancy increases and people grow older, what would happen if one Supreme Court Justice suffered from Alzeihmer? Is there some kind of impeachment procedure for that particular case?

  44. gino says:

    why Superman comes from USA ?  they like the "Super humans" concept.  Another thing.   The separation of powers is important in a democracy.   Just think if a President could control the DOJ.   That would be the outset of a dictatorship.

  45. Adam Powell says:

    The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania would be the higher authority that would preside over that court case…right?

  46. Mich says:

    look I'm republican & i made an orc program to convert writing to computer. Jeffrey Kline or whoever hacked the fl. legislation to impose my move from their visceral interests 10k when provisional patent is needed. plus some dishonorable maGGot ya got telling me to join ISIS after i done 300k his life & kids. G started matching & marching with The G[W]=[iq]×&/ore÷ [social Gospel +natural Gospel] fax conversion philosophy. I've attained much but the liberation pinned me as… America is GAY because ya allowing all dese tics laws to protect swindling. reps need to protect those under them and Pharaoh has amendment 1 Sauti Sol tell me watever ya crazy for thinking i'm playing. proverbs 1-31 MayBach G doesn't even trust cause ads hilariously go missing when G aims. women catch fire & run off. idk what JFK left them but as for me I don't do nothing for country but for God & the maGGot training he left Gen1. Writ of Ciertiory, read my Facebook and assert the logical path to impeded progress cat & mouse. may God bless the decrepit sol that remove & do other things with feces and think they can impress saying they have ideas. my life liberty & security of honor cause G pray for God G prey on y'all amen soaring eagle. forget happiness its honor protocol. Hajime!!

  47. Alex Ray says:

    My solution would be to impose an age limit. Make it so you have to be 50 to serve on the court, but can only serve until 65, and then also allow the process of a judge being appointed and confirmed to begin before the leaving judge retires so that there is minimal time of having only 8 justices.

  48. DimemanRobbie says:

    If any justice is biased and makes such statements publicly they should be impeached————————–Judges hold their offices “during good behavior,” which means that they may keep their positions until they retire, die while in office, or are removed, by impeachment, for bad behavior. The Founders wanted the Supreme Court’s justices, and other federal judges, to be protected from the all-too-common taint and corruption that follows running for and being elected to office. There is, of course, no way to legislate a requirement to choose people with integrity and ethics to hold these offices; it is implied by the “good behavior” phrasing. The Constitutional remedy for a judge whose decisions demonstrate a lack of “good behavior:” evidence of corruption, lack of integrity or ethics, bias, or lack of understanding of the law or the Constitution they swore to uphold – is impeachment. This remedy has been used far too infrequently in our 200-plus year history. Judges now assume their positions are inviolable, and legislate from the bench, inventing “rights” and assuming “jurisdiction” that does not assist. Shame on us for not demanding of our Congress-critters that they remove such judges from office!

  49. Ronald C. Uehara says:

    Want a good laugh? Try putting a snapshot of Judges Ginzberg, Kagan, and Sotomayer
    next to each other. They look like something out the mad magazine. Three liberal judges
    that look like they escaped from the nuthouse.

  50. Darth Maul says:

    Death to supreme court judges for going against men…

  51. Beautiful Person says:

    I think that it is good because the Justices are appointed by the president which is elected by the people.

  52. Exalted Exile says:


  53. D Storm says:

    The justices are politicians.   The life term is a stupid system, and it doesn't prevent the problems it seeks to.

  54. Cornelius Cody says:

    Did Justice Thomas vote only with conservative free speech issues?

  55. Marsiling Martian says:

    Supreme Court judges should have fixed term and their replacement should be junior judges promoted from the same branch, not appointed by politicians.

  56. Annely Gutierrez Revollo says:


  57. Black Orchid says:

    They're not SUPPOSe to be moved by PUBLIC opinion.. they're suppose to uphold the CONSTITUTION based on historical law and documentations by the forefathers/FEDERALIST papers and biographies..etc. They should KNOW the intent of the the CONSTITUTION.. not political agenda/party..etc!

  58. Tobin Prowant says:

    Your comments at the end chastising Clarence Thomas. Show you all to be racist and bigoted . You obviously hate black people because you have a problem with Clarence Thomas.

  59. Giovanni Ching Autheman says:

    A theoretical Non-partisanship allows certain stability to a current presidential government it worked in the past but today things have changed, the left pushes for radical and repulsive laws against the family which surprisingly had tipped the balance to favor Obama's laws of "Gender Identity" that allowed him to launch a prototype class on homosexuality for 5 year old kids in some states , once Judge Scalia were found dead, a critical event for passing these kind of "laws". All this despite the majority of families in the US (including liberals who strive for liberal economics but no liberal anti-family policies) are still opposed to those very corrosive liberal doctrines that have more to do with cultural marxist like Obama's "GI Curriculum" intended to perm little kid's minds with that abhorrent agenda. It would be like legalizing pedophilia.

    That's why it's better that those judges can be changed along with every government because too many anti-laws have been passed and one generation has to wait too much time for a new government reverse them.

  60. Alejandro Perales says:

    Look if kill people and steel You'll never beat me.But steel cheat lie for your till you will end time is end your chime crack down is crime if find the love God with in time sun will and show you the crime it's not divine 💀

  61. Prime Lopez says:

    We need to Pray to God for The Right Judge to be appointed.

  62. andrew sutherland says:

    It's ironic that the republicans are the ones who claim to traditionally uphold the constitution, yet they want to get rid of this aspect. The reason why supreme court justaces serve for life is a check on the other branches, and the only one really. Are people really complaining the president doesn't have as much of a say in the supreme court, it's not his branch. FDR tried to take a larger control on the supreme court once too, it backfired and damaged his popularity, even amoung his own party. If we try to limit the supreme court, we'll make it's rulings irrelevant the way congress' laws are as soon as a new party controls it. And liberals might complain about how the supreme court can't keep up with today, but how many conservatives are happy about Roe v Wade or Obergefell v Hodges

  63. Lisa Alley says:

    Charge: Home Invasion and Federal Corruption

  64. Anon Frank says:

    Justices should not rule or serve for life . That is what kings and queens get to do . In a democracy no one should serve for life . they should only serve for a dozen years at the most .

  65. alice alice says:

    Unaccountable attempt

  66. Anon Frank says:

    I am a socialist and I feel judges should be voted by the people , and serve a fixed term

  67. John G says:

    I think the argument that without a life term, Judges would have to run political campaigns is the primary reason, and it's a good one. Well, why shouldn't they have to run for office ?. Life terms protect the court from the tyranny of the majority. When hot button issues come before the court, what rules ? emotion of the electorate at a given time ? Or Constitutional law ? The issue is judicial philosophy. Originalists or those who believe in a "living" Constitution. The main problem with the "living" Constitution is that it always contains the danger of usurping the role of Congress to make law. Originalists believe that the role of the court is to interpret law using the Constitution and not to make law. That is the role of the electorate and the Congress. If you want a law changed or a new law on the books, you make that known to Congress by the power of your vote. Originalists believe in the responsibility required of the engaged and educated citizen. Unfortunately, most of us are not engaged and don't take our responsibilities seriously. We have become more than happy to be told what to think and when to think it. The future of the Republic requires our engaged input. Not by clapping or booing like trained seals in response to bumper stickers or media sound bytes.

  68. Jason H says:

    Allow 2/3 majority of states to overturn a supreme Court ruling. Problem solved . Checks n balance amendment

  69. Threeper % says:

    Hey dingy its a REPUBLIC!!!

  70. Threeper % says:

    The day you show me the word democrat or democracy in the constitution I'll give you a little credit.

  71. Patriotic Conservative says:

    The US isn't a Democracy

  72. Kalen Doleman says:

    Do people not learn this in school?

  73. icetwo says:

    The Judge term length on Federal Constitutional Court of Germany is 12 Years.

  74. Joseph Van says:

    Ginsberg is too senile to realize it is past time for her to retire.

  75. Mikee Flores says:

    Just have the people elect them

  76. Drink Bleach says:

    Judges shouldn’t have a limit
    Idc if you’re Republican or Democrat
    You’re appointed for life stay there

  77. Pedro Guttemberg says:

    Im brazilian, here the judges in the supreme court have a life long term but they have a obligatory retirement at 75 years

  78. Shermanator says:

    1970-2006 is 26 years?

  79. Nicu Tiganus says:


  80. TheRogue says:


  81. Rommel Rodriguez says:

    Ginsburg for life

  82. P.T. Chen says:

    A prisoner can be sentenced life term in jail .Why not juges.

  83. Donald Badowski says:

    The most important thing Scalia ever said was during an interview. "It's supposed to be hard to change the Constitution." Unlike Ruth, who wants to throw out everything put together by Old White Men, Scalia took a cautious approach, so we do not descend into chaos. Ruth would be happy for the chaos, if only it would enshire her in a Leftist temple of her own making.

  84. dor ryoku says:

    American logic:
    Let's have people on the supreme court that are non partisan.

    Oh but how do we pick them? Nice of you to ask!! Let's have them nominated by someone who runs for office based on party affiliation.

    But how do we make sure said person doesn't just blindly nominate someone from the same party? Awesome question!! Lets have the nominees confirmed by a group of people who also run for office based on party affiliation.

    There's just about nothing non partisan about the supreme court anymore. Look at congress throwing away the rule of requiring two-thirds majority. Look at the mess on both sides with the confirmation of justice kavanaugh. America has always been partisan. That fact is just becoming clearer now. Change is necessary!!

  85. Sayad Khan says:

    No one should be in any position of power, indefinitely.

  86. E Am says:

    The feeling this host gives me is powerful

  87. Ngai 22b says:

    Cj sereno in the ph was impeached because of the manipulativeness of the duterte administration ;(

  88. Isabella Love says:

    Why are we still following an idea of the past if we wanna move forward?? Its not reasonable or logical for an old 80 woman or man to be in such positions.We cant be like in the past, but better.

  89. Truthshallsetyoufree says:

    Do a video on how powerful are christian nations.

  90. Truth Rainer says:

    Yes so the far left wants to change laws that have been established and worked well for our countey with good reason for it!!!! No term should not be changed!!!!! Just because they lost they want ti tey and change more in there favor as if all the rigged elections now and past. Some where put in office that were ot voted to win but rigged. Even jusmdges yrs especial the 9th district court

  91. Truth Rainer says:

    Corrupt as all get out

  92. Truth Rainer says:

    Talk about deceived. How you love ole hillaryy now

  93. Mary Camerota says:

    They should be term limits for them.

  94. ajrose says:

    Serving for life is too long.

  95. Karl Striepe says:

    Love Evan's videos. When he dramatically says "undone," you can certainly get a foreshadowing of his later incredible independent success as a YouTuber under the alias of Nerdwriter1, such dramatism, and correctly so.

  96. Cupid says:

    Democracy or Power to the People is awesome. But I'm not in favor 100% of power to the people. I want balance of power. Do not elect judges or justices and repeal the 17th amendment.

  97. NUGT L says:

    Everyone wants to stay in power forever

  98. D Diddy says:

    Very unchaotic of we.

  99. Mark Powls says:

    THIS IS SO FALSE, IT IS ANNOYING. READ THE FREAKIN CONSTITUTION AND STOP SPREADING THESE LIES!! ARTICLE III, Section 1, 2nd sentence states: The Judges, both of the supreme & inferior Courts, SHALL hold their offices DURING GOOD BEHAVIOUR, ………. Justices of ANY courts superior or inferior to the federal government DO NOT have lifetime appointments. at least 75% of our justices right now are behaving as oath-breakers and should be relieved of their office without further compensations from the united States because of this propaganda. Stop and make this correction, or take down this youtube video immediately.

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