The Supreme Court has been one of the main governing bodies for the United States since its creation in 1789. Currently, the Supreme Court consists of 9 justices, with the newest, Amy Coney Barrett, being sworn in last year. For as long as we can remember, the Supreme Court has consisted of 8 justices and the Chief Justice, with Chief Justice John Roberts being in his position since 2005. The fact that he’s remained in this position for 16 years should already be lifting eyebrows, but that’s not the only thing to be concerned about. Two big concerns with Supreme Court Justices have been length of service and age.
Clarence Thomas, for example, is currently the longest serving Supreme Court Justice, with 30 years of service as of Oct. 23. He was appointed by President George H.W. Bush. Steven Breyer, is the Supreme Court Justice at 83 years. Even Barrett, the newest Justice, is already 49 years old. Similar to Congress, a main problem within the Supreme Court is the age demographic, as many of the Justices are too old to understand the problems that younger generations experience. Race, gender/sexuality and religious demographics are all issues that plague the Supreme Court. Justice Thomas is only the second African-American to serve on the Supreme Court, and Sonia Sotomayor is the first and so far only Hispanic-American Supreme Court Justice. Justice Barrett is only the fifth woman to serve, after Sandra Day O’Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. Seven Justices are Roman Catholic and two are Jewish, although history has seen most Justices be raised in Protestant faiths.
The U.S. has yet to see Justices from a variety of demographics such as African-American women, Native Americans, Hispanic-American men, members of the LGBTQ+ community, those under the age of 40, etc. On top of this, the last immigrant on the Supreme Court was Felix Frankfurter, from Austria-Hungary (now Austria), who served from 1939-1962.However, to see the underlying cause of all this we should look at the Constitution. According to the Judiciary Act, Supreme Court Justices are nominated by the President and confirmed by Senate.
Unlike presidential, gubernatorial or local elections, the people don’t have a chance to vote on judicial nominees. A key example of this can be seen with Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Barrett, the three Justices nominated by Donald Trump, who earned their positions with Senate votes of 54-45, 50-48, and 52-48, respectively. Additionally, Supreme Court Justices hold their position for life unless they resign, retire, die or are removed from office.
However, here’s a blaring red flag: the Judiciary Act, since being established in 1789, was only revised once, in 1869. In over 150 years, the terms to get and stay on the Supreme Court have not changed. In short, the requirements and laws for someone to be nominated and appointed to the Supreme Court are extremely outdated. If the United States wants a court that will be able to listen to and understand the problems that younger and future generations face, more judges and ultimately Justices need to come from minority demographics in order to give us the support we need.