Q: It is a political season so maybe this is exaggerated, but there does seem to be serious discussion about increasing the number of persons who serve on the Supreme Court. Is that just talk or could it really be done?
-N.G., Los Angeles
A: The U.S. Constitution grants Congress with the authority to determine how many justices sit on the Supreme Court. The number has varied from five and ten, but since 1869 has held steady at nine. Bottom line, if Congress increases the number, and the President signs the bill into law, the number sitting as justices on the Supreme Court could change.
Q: Are there specific qualifications to be able to serve as a Supreme Court justice?
A: The Constitution sets forth age, citizenship and residence requirements for the presidency or to become a member of Congress, but contains no rules for becoming part of the country’s highest court. That said, there is considerable scrutiny of anyone who a president appoints, so it can be said there are implied standards that are very carefully considered, including by the United States Senate which must confirm the president’s appointment.
Q: How long are justices appointed to the Supreme Court?
-V.S., Los Angeles
A: Justices are appointed for life, but can be impeached. To date only one has been impeached, but quite a few (research indicates over 50) have chosen to retire or resign for various reasons.
Ron Sokol is a Manhattan Beach attorney with more than 35 years of experience. His column, which appears in print on Wednesdays, presents a summary of the law and should not be construed as legal advice. Email questions and comments to him at [email protected]