Speculation about potential retirements at the U.S. Supreme Court continues to swirl, and in a recent op-ed for The Hill, commentator Juan Williams argues that the justice who most needs to consider a strategic departure from the bench is liberal stalwart Stephen Breyer.
Williams begins his piece by warning about the conservative tilt the high court has experienced in recent years, citing a recent analysis from the Washington Post claiming that the current composition of the bench renders it “more conservative than the elected branches [of the federal government] to a degree not seen in 70 years.”
He goes on to blame the above circumstance on Senate Republicans, assailing their decision to block then-President Barack Obama’s appointment of Merrick Garland to the court in 2016 as well as their actions in subsequently confirming all three of the justices nominated during the presidency of Donald Trump.
According to Williams, the conservative majority on the court is cause for concern among the American public, and he points to a Reuters/Ipsos poll from April in which 63% of respondents indicated a desire for age or term limits on Supreme Court justices, and 38% expressed an interest in expanding the court to add four more seats.
The liberal pundit argued that adding to the urgency of the need for a Breyer retirement – which would permit his replacement to be nominated by President Joe Biden and likely confirmed by a narrow Democrat margin in the Senate – is a recent announcement that the high court will hear arguments in a potentially pivotal abortion case that could deal a serious blow to the constitutionality of Roe v. Wade.
As Williams sees it, the only recourse for liberals in the near term is to begin efforts to recalibrate the makeup of the existing court by “nudging” the 82-year-old Breyer out the door. Otherwise, he argues, there is a serious risk he will repeat the mistake made by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was widely criticized by the left for not stepping down during the Obama administration in order to ensure the confirmation of an ideologically suitable successor.
Williams is not alone in his assessment of the situation, and pressure on Breyer continues to mount from left-wing academics and court watchers alike. Law professor Dan Kobil explained earlier this month, “I’m sure Breyer realizes what a blow Justice Ginsburg’s non-retirement was to the possibility of ever having an even mildly progressive Court in our lifetime. So I think he would not want to double down on what many view as her miscalculation.”
Brian Fallon, executive director of far-left advocacy group Demand Justice, has put things even more plainly, saying, according to Politico, “People need to stop being sheepish about this. The longer that goes by without word from Breyer that he intends to step down at the end of this term, the more reckless it is.”
Thus far, Justice Breyer has kept his deliberations remarkably close to the vest, so whether he will accede to the retirement demands from Williams and others on the left that seem to grow louder by the day, only time will tell.