According to The Hill, speculation regarding the potential retirement of Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer continues to mount, and increasing numbers of activists on the left are making their opinions on the subject loudly known.
The death last fall of liberal judicial icon Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg set left-leaning court watchers on edge, and now that there is once again a Democrat in the White House, many believe that this is the ideal time for a vacancy to occur. At 82 years of age, Breyer is the obvious candidate, though he has yet to make any public statement about his intentions in this regard.
Democrats concerned about the ideological makeup of the high court realize that their party’s extremely tenuous hold on Congress means that time really is of the essence in terms of shaping the bench, and they are fearful that Breyer may miss an opportunity to ensure a like-minded replacement, as was the case when Ginsburg declined to retire while former President Barack Obama could have chosen her successor.
Law professor Dan Kobil articulated the widespread concern felt on the left, explaining to The Hill, “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.”
Pressure on Breyer has also come from others in the halls of academia, with University of California, Berkeley, School of Law Dean Edwin Chemerinsky telling The Hill, “If one Democrat leaves for whatever reason, the Democrats could lose the Senate. For Breyer to have someone with his values and views replace him, retiring this summer could be crucial.”
Breyer’s future has also received significant attention from leftist interest groups such as Demand Justice, whose executive director Brian Fallon stated plainly that “people need to stop being sheepish about this,” according to Politico, adding, “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.”
Fallon continued, saying, “Mitch McConnell was not above directly calling judges to urge them to retire last year, so senators should not be so reluctant to state the obvious of what is at risk if Breyer does not take this opportunity to step down.”
The Biden administration has reportedly avoided putting any specific pressure on Breyer to depart the bench, and Senate Judiciary Committee member Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) has said he personally would “never presume to tell a Supreme Court justice to retire,” as Poltico noted.
However, the senator from Connecticut also stated that Breyer “is well familiar with the way judicial appointments work, and I believe strongly he has in mind the best interests of the country and will make the right decision.,” making it clear that the octogenarian justice will continue feeling the heat from all corners. Whether he in fact accedes to that pressure remains to be seen.