Some leftists now urging Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor to retire so Biden and Democratic Senate can replace her

 April 5, 2024

There are growing calls from some on the ideological left for liberal Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor to retire this year so that President Joe Biden and a Democrat-led Senate can replace her with a younger left-leaning jurist.

That seems rather unlikely to occur, however, according to multiple legal experts, even though there are politically legitimate and logical reasons behind such calls for Sotomayor's retirement from the high court, Newsweek reported.

Concerns that Sotomayor could be replaced by Trump and Republicans

Many Democrats and leftists still have nightmares over how the late liberal Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg rejected calls to step aside when then-President Barack Obama and a Democratic Senate could have replaced her, only to then die in 2020 and be replaced with conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett by then-President Donald Trump and a Republican Senate.

Given the possibility that Trump could return to the White House and Republicans could retake the Senate following November's elections, there are now real fears among some on the left that history will repeat itself with Justice Sotomayor, who is 69 and has diabetes, either dying or resigning for health reasons while Republicans are in charge of filling her vacancy, setting up a 7-2 right-leaning court.

Hence, the growing calls from the left -- albeit not from any top Democratic senators, according to NBC News -- for her to step aside this year while President Biden and the Democratic Senate still have the opportunity to replace her with a like-minded justice, presumably of a younger age and in better health.

Those calls are not emanating from the White House, however, as HuffPost reported that the Biden administration is adamant that Supreme Court retirements are "personal decisions" for each justice and "not something that we get involved in."

"PTSD from 2020"

One such example of the growing demands for Justice Sotomayor to remove herself from the Supreme Court comes from former MSNBC host Medhi Hasan, who recently penned an op-ed calling for her early retirement and said during a recent CNN appearance that he still had "PTSD from 2020" and the replacement of Ginsburg with Barrett.

Another example, per Newsweek, comes from University of Colorado law professor Paul Campos, who also said on CNN that Sotomayor should retire this summer, given the "very significant possibility that Joe Biden will not be able to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court during his second term because of Republican control of the Senate," or worse, that "Donald Trump will be able to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court if he were to be reelected president and the GOP controls the Senate."

"It would really be in the public's best interest for her to do a very statesmanlike thing and step down from the Court rather than running this risk, which would be a completely catastrophic development," Campos added.

Legal experts think a Sotomayor retirement this year is unlikely

"The public and private musings about Supreme Court justices and their tenures range from the naive to the overly analytical," former federal prosecutor Michael McAuliffe told Newsweek. "Justices have life tenure, and they know it better than anyone else. Age is but one of numerous criteria to gauge prospective length of service. For example, Justice Sotomayor is in her late 60s. Depending on health, she could have close to two decades more of active service."

"Calls for her to retire at this point are so unrealistic as to be comical. And those calls from the ideological left ignore the fact that she is a thoughtful, diligent member of the Court," he continued. "Of course, the backdrop for the current round of public statements about justice retirements likely stems from the tragedy of Justice Ginsburg's death while in office."

"The crucial factor in the Ginsburg saga was that she had ongoing and very serious health issues while serving [on] the Court. That doesn't appear to apply to any of the current justices who have been subject to speculation about retirements," McAuliffe added.

Similarly, George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley told Newsweek, "I do not see why Sotomayor would retire. She is intellectually sharp and continues to be a major force on the Court."

"With every new president, there is speculation about retirements. Justices have been open about their timing retirements, with a mind to their replacements. That will likely weigh more heavily in our deeply divided times," he added. "If the Senate were to flip with a Trump victory, it would likely give pause for some members on both ends of the Court over the prospects for a new nominee."

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