As Carrington notes, longer life spans now translate into terms of thirty or more years. The independence of the judiciary can be easily preserved with either term limits, say, of eighteen years, or a mandatory retirement age of seventy. Nearly every modern legal system understands the virtue of limiting judicial terms. Carrington, however, goes astray when he links the absence of term limits to the possibility of the conservative justices overturning the Affordable Care Act: “Liberals are concerned that the right-wing tilt of five justices and lifelong appointments ensure a decades-long assault on the power of Congress,” he writes.

Though conservatives should get equally exercised about the opposite effect—that is, of a reelected Barack Obama getting to appoint the next two or three justices—the real risk of a lifetime appointment is not partisanship. It is disproportionate power, not only on the Supreme Court, but for any public official…

The situation is every bit as critical in the lower courts. In this instance, I am in favor of a general provision that says that all newly appointed federal judges should serve for fifteen-year terms, subject to reappointment up to the age of seventy. Right now, we have a system close to this for the judges of the tax and bankruptcy courts. They serve for terms of fifteen and fourteen years respectively and are removable “for cause.” No one thinks that this situation has resulted in a decline in the independence of these judges or in the quality of their work. The only objection to this sensible arrangement is that it is, on any accurate reading of the Constitution, not permissible.