We Need Supreme Court Term Limits

This post, written by Jayne Lyn Stahl, originally appeared on Lady Jayne's Blog

For many, the idea of term limits for members of Congress is a good one, and three terms sounds about right. But in light of Thursday's draconian ruling by the Supreme Court, as well as other recent rulings, it might be time to consider imposing term limits on Supreme Court justices, too.

Consistent with what appears to be a trend, the Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 yesterday to throw out a challenge to his murder conviction by an Ohio inmate, Keith Bowles, who was sentenced to 15 years to life, back in 1999. Mr Bowles sought to appeal his sentence on constitutional grounds, but the federal court denied his application due to a technicality---he was 3 days late in filing his papers.

After being denied on first appeal, he reopened the case years later whereupon a federal district judge erroneously gave him 17 days instead of 14 to file. So, his appeal was thrown out of appeals court as he passed the deadline, and the Supreme Court upheld the district court's ruling precluding Bowles from legal remedy to challenge his sentence. Bottom line: regardless of whether Mr. Bowles deserves to do the time he was given, his Eighth Amendment appeal was tossed because of a mistake made by a federal judge, and he missed out on his legal right to appeal. (NYT)

The decision of the Supreme Court to uphold the U.S. Court of Appeal ruling was, in a word, callous, and calluses are for feet not courts. Indeed, since the president's appointment of two new justices to the court, Chief Justice John Roberts, and Samuel Alito, recent rulings increasingly demonstrate that the hard, bony tissue which often develops around the ends of a fractured bone now exemplifies the body politic, too. After all, what is it if not crude and callous to deny someone the right to appeal because he was 3 days late for filing his paperwork due to a mistake by a district judge?

So it is then that we can no longer talk about the composition, but the decomposition, of the Supreme Court in light of this ruling, as well as one, in mid-April, in which the court upheld the ban on partial birth abortions, also by a 5-4 ratio, again reflecting a slim majority. And, here, too,, we can thank the usual suspects, John Roberts and Samuel Alito, for a ruling that represents the first step in overturning the constitutional amendment that protects reproductive choice. But, whether you're for choice or against it, think that the inmate in Ohio was guilty and had no case for appeal, this literalism, and rigid adherence to technicality, may someday jeopardize your rights, too.
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