No, you didn’t mishear. Bernie Sanders did indeed say something during the debate about rotating Supreme Court justices. In fact this isn’t the first time he’s brought up this idea.
During the She the People Summit in April, Sanders brought up this idea before, CNN shared. He said, in part: “What may make sense is, if not term limits, then rotating judges to the appeals court as well. Letting them get out of the Supreme Court and bringing in new blood.”
He said at the time that packing the court with more justices isn’t the right solution since Republicans will eventually be in power again. Instead, he floated the idea of rotating justices, which he brought up again briefly during the debate.
At She the People, he floated the idea of rotating Supreme Court justices to an appeals court after about 12 years.
The idea was proposed by Professors Daniel Epps and Ganesh Sitaraman, who believe this can be accomplished with a statute and not a constitutional amendment. You can read more details about this on the SCOTUS blog here. Their idea seems more radical than what Sanders has mentioned, as it discusses a constant rotating system where judges serve two weeks and then rotate. But it’s not 100 percent clear what Sanders’ proposal is, and lawyers disagree on whether the idea shared in the SCOTUS blog would even be possible without an amendment.
A slightly different idea from that shared on the SCOTUS blog is the idea that Supreme Court justices would serve a nonvoting senior status that they maintain, but would rotate onto the circuit courts every 18 years or so.
Here’s more about what Sanders said before:
Sanders addressed this again in May:
So what Sanders said tonight wasn’t the first time he’s mentioned the idea of rotating justices. But it’s not quite clear yet exactly how that idea would work.
This is a developing story.