There has been a steady chorus of voices on the left as of late demanding that 82-year-old Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer retire soon so that President Joe Biden can nominate a younger and similarly left-leaning judge to take his place. At the same time, talk of “packing” the court has swirled among those who want to see Biden undo the legacy left on the federal judiciary by President Donald Trump.
In a crushing blow to those with such high hopes, Justice Breyer never mentioned the idea of retirement in a recent speech, but was explicit in his opposition to court-packing, even going so far as to admonish those in the media and lawmakers in Washington for constantly politicizing the Supreme Court, as PJ Media reported.
The remarks from Breyer came during a lengthy talk delivered virtually to students, faculty, and alumni at Harvard Law School, where he previously taught law as a professor before being nominated to the high court in 1994 by then-President Bill Clinton.
“Think long and hard” about court-packing
According to the Associated Press, Justice Breyer urged caution during his speech against the impetus to make partisan-minded changes to the Supreme Court, as doing so would likely undermine the credibility of the generally respected institution.
According to PJ Media, Breyer said that his warning was intended “to make those whose initial instincts may favor important structural (or other similar institutional) changes, such as forms of ‘court-packing,’ think long and hard before embodying those changes in law.”
“Structural alteration motivated by the perception of political influence can only feed that perception, further eroding that trust,” he added, according to Law & Crime.
Stop politicizing the court, please
Undoubtedly with an eye toward that “perception of political influence,” Justice Breyer also called upon members of the media and politicians to stop referring to the court’s jurists as “conservative” or “liberal,” or inextricably linked to the political party of the president who had nominated them.
According to Law & Crime, Breyer said doing so only serves to “reinforce the thought, likely already present in the reader’s mind, that Supreme Court justices are primarily political officials or ‘junior league’ politicians themselves rather than jurists.”
The justice also pointed to numerous recent decisions by the high court, some of which were more favorable to Republicans, but others of which went against the grain of the current 6-3 “conservative majority” on the court.
“These considerations convince me that it is wrong to think of the Court as another political institution,” Breyer said, according to the AP.
Retirement? Probably not
As for his prospective retirement, Justice Breyer made no mention of it, likely to the dismay of those on the left who are champing at the bit for an opportunity to replace him with a much younger and more overtly partisan judge.
To be sure, at 82 years old, Breyer may well decide to retire within the next couple of years or so, providing an opportunity for President Biden — or, perhaps even, a future President Kamala Harris — to name his replacement. But there’s certainly no guarantee, and for now at least, it looks like stepping down isn’t in the cards for Justice Breyer.