Stephen Breyer calls former colleague Sotomayor 'spring chicken' as she faces retirement pressure

 April 29, 2024

Former Supreme Court justice Stephen Breyer is defending his former colleague, Sonia Sotomayor, as she comes under pressure from the left to retire.

Breyer, 85, said Sotomayor is a "spring chicken" despite concerns among liberals about her health and the risk she could be replaced by a conservative. The 69-year-old, who is diabetic, is the oldest liberal justice on the court.

"I think there is a difference. She is a spring chicken and I'm an old rooster. There we are. But people can say what they want. The decision about what to do is up to the judge," Breyer told Fox News Sunday. 

Breyer on colleague's retirement rumors

Sotomayor is younger than Clarence Thomas, 75, and Samuel Alito, 74, seen as some of the most reliable conservatives on the bench. Breyer noted he was 83 when he stepped down.

"I think anybody can say what he wants, you know," Breyer said. "And I was 83 years old, just about I think, when I retired."

With the court already dominated by the right, the left is fearful of losing more control. They see Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death in office in 2020 - which allowed President Trump to choose her replacement - as a cautionary tale.

Democrats are seen as especially likely to lose the Senate this year, so many on the left are itching for Sotomayor to step aside now.

But Breyer downplayed concerns about her fitness and noted that the decision is hers to make, in the end.

"You can stay there until you are 150 years old if you want," he said.

Supreme Court control at stake

The pressure for Sotomayor to step down has come mostly from the liberal commentariat, with prominent publications like The Atlantic broaching the subject.

Prominent Democratic senator Richard Blumenthal (CT), who sits on the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee, has also urged Sotomayor to be mindful of her mortality - but few of his Democratic colleagues have seconded his bold opinion.

Breyer stepped down in 2022, allowing President Biden to appoint a liberal successor, Ketanji Brown Jackson.

The court is split 6-3, and the majority's rulings on controversial subjects like abortion and Donald Trump's legal issues have brought furious backlash.

The Supreme Court appears likely to grant Trump a partial victory in his presidential immunity case, which could delay his January 6th trial past the 2024 election.

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Thomas Jefferson
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