A few years back I asked a number of people how long does a Supreme Court Justice serve. Almost unanimously the response was until death or resignation. No one’s response was constitutional. There is nothing in the Constitution that says a Supreme Court Justice or any other federal judge serves for life or until they resign.
Here is what the Constitution says about the term of office of a Supreme Court Justice or federal judge:
The judicial Power of the United States shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.” [Emphasis mine]
There is nothing that says the appointments are for life, but does say they shall hold their office during good behavior.
What does it mean ‘good behavior’? Some have argued that means moral behavior but the most generally accepted understanding refers to how they conduct themselves on the bench and adhere a strict interpretation of the Constitution and the laws of land. First and foremost is adhering to the Constitution.
So what happens if a Supreme Court Justice does not follow a strict interpretation of theConstitution and starts ruling on what he or she wants the Constitution to say? That Justice is no longer serving in good behavior and therefore should be removed from the bench.