http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/editorials/2005-01-12-mauro_x.htm ... "It is that dearth of vacancies, not concern about Rehnquist's performance, that has triggered the debate. Because of justices' life tenure, the only way a president, and the voters who elect him, can influence the direction of the Supreme Court is through the appointment process. Appointing justices is one of the most important and prized duties a president has. But appointments take place only when a justice departs; for the past 10 years, no one has. Bill Clinton's second term, and President George W. Bush's first term, passed without any vacancies. Not too long ago, much to his regret, Jimmy Carter's only term as president came and went without any justices leaving. The reason is clear. Justices, like everyone else, are living longer. That makes life tenure a far weightier proposition than when the framers included it in the Constitution. The average age of today's justices is 70. The justices who have left the court in the past 35 years served an average of 25 years before retiring. By contrast, the justices who departed in the early years of the republic served an average of eight years..."