In the wake of the 2020 election, many on the left have demanded that 83-year-old Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, appointed by Bill Clinton in the mid-1990s, announce his retirement, giving President Joe Biden the chance to name a similarly left-leaning jurist to succeed him.
The justice has long appeared resistant to those demands, even in the months since Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s sudden 2020 death allowed President Donald Trump the opportunity to cement a conservative tilt on the high court bench for potentially decades to come. But according to Fox News, Breyer suggested for the first time in an interview published Thursday by The New York Times that he might indeed consider retiring while it’s politically expedient for Democrats.
Quoting the late Justice Antonin Scalia, Breyer admitted to the Times that questions of who would succeed him “will inevitably be in the psychology” of his retirement plans.
“He said, ‘I don’t want somebody appointed who will just reverse everything I’ve done for the last 25 years,'” Breyer told the Times, according to Fox.
Will Breyer retire?
Breyer also said in the Thursday interview he doesn’t plan to remain on the bench until his death, though he was appointed for life. “I don’t think I’m going to stay there till I die — hope not,” the justice remarked.
Of course, Breyer conceded that timing isn’t everything. “There are a lot of blurred things there, and there are many considerations,” he said of the factors contributing to his decision to retire, according to the Times. “They form a whole. I’ll make a decision.”
Breyer added to the Times, “I don’t like making decisions about myself.”
SCOTUS and credibility
In truth, Justice Breyer didn’t seem to want to discuss his potentially impending retirement in his recent interview.
Instead, the 83-year-old justice wanted to talk about his new book, The Authority of the Court and the Peril of Politics, which, in fact, strongly cautions against some of the more partisan court reform proposals put forward by Democrats intent on regaining control over the judiciary in the wake of the Trump presidency.
In his book, Breyer decries the partisan labeling of justices as conservative or liberal, as well as the all-out political brawls that once-boring confirmation hearings have become.
He goes on to warn those on the left who want to expand the high court bench, adding more liberal judges to counter the conservative majority, to “think twice” before doing so, as the ideological right could just as easily counter such a move in the future with further expansion — teeing up a tit-for-tat judicial arms race that could undermine the credibility of the institution.
In his interview, Breyer did seem to signal approval for imposing term limits on justices, however — provided they were “long terms,” so judges don’t have to worry about their next job. “It would make my life easier,” he told the Times, tongue in cheek.