Many on the left have been hoping that Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer will soon retire and make way for another — younger — liberal jurist to take his place. But for Democrats who had their fingers crossed about a potential resignation, the latest news on Breyer comes as a crushing blow.
According to a Monday report from Law & Crime, Breyer has offered no indications thus far that he plans to step down from the Supreme Court bench anytime soon.
In fact, Bloomberg reported just last week that the 83-year-old jurist had hired a full slate of law clerks in what is just the latest evidence that he intends to remain on the SCOTUS bench for at least another term.
The court’s most recent term ended earlier this month, and as Bloomberg noted, “justices in recent decades have timed their retirements to coincide with the end of the court’s term.”
“Politicians in robes”
Of course, Breyer has made clear that he doesn’t plan to make his retirement into a political gesture. In recent talks, the jurist has expressed his belief that members of the Supreme Court bench should operate independently, without regard to political parties and how they may be impacted.
“If the public sees judges as politicians in robes, its confidence in the courts and in the rule of law itself can only diminish,” he said at a speech at Harvard Law School in April, according to Bloomberg.
The stance likely comes as a source of disappointment for Democrats, who fear that Republicans will prevent President Joe Biden from filling any potential Supreme Court openings — including one created by Breyer — should they retake control of the Senate in 2022.
“It’s highly unlikely”
Notably, in 2016, then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to consider then-President Barack Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland.
McConnell has since said that he would be reluctant to confirm any nominee that Biden should put forward in 2024. and may be reluctant to do so in 2023 as well.
“I think in the middle of a presidential election, if you have a Senate of the opposite party of the president, you have to go back to the 1880s to find the last time a vacancy was filled,” the Senate minority leader told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt in June, according to Fox News.
“So I think it’s highly unlikely,” McConnell added. “In fact, no, I don’t think either party if it controlled, if it were different from the president, would confirm a Supreme Court nominee in the middle of an election.”
That led right-leaning commentator Bill Kristol to tweet on July 2: “Not generally in the business of telling people when to retire, and Supreme Court justices aren’t in the habit of retiring when it’s suggested they might — but it would be crazy for Justice Breyer not to step down this month.”