Despite the chorus of voices from the progressive left urging his immediate retirement, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer finally broke his silence on the topic earlier this week, declaring that he is not ready to make any decisions about his future on the bench, as CBS News reports.
During an interview with CNN, the 82-year-old jurist revealed that the timing of his eventual retirement will turn on two key variables. “Primarily, of course, health. Second, the court,” he explained, also making it plain that he had made no determinations about when his departure is likely to occur.
The liberal stalwart’s clarification comes in the midst of growing calls from progressive legislators and advocacy groups for Breyer to take his leave of the court in order to make way for a nominee of President Joe Biden’s choosing and whose confirmation process could begin while the Democrats still hold narrow control of the Senate.
As CBS News further noted, Breyer has held his seat at the high court for 27 years, and the death of late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg elevated him to become the top-ranking liberal on the panel. During the interview with CNN, Breyer explained that the new status “has made a difference to [him],” and said of the processes that occur behind the scenes, “It is not a fight. It is not sarcasm. It is deliberation.”
Breyer’s future has been the subject of intense scrutiny from far-left lawmakers such as Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) as well as Mondaire Jones (D-NY), who said in April that “there’s no question” that Breyer needs to step down immediately to facilitate an ideologically similar replacement and avoid a possible repeat of what occurred when Ginsburg’s demise resulted in the ensuing vacancy being filled by then-President Donald Trump.
Even Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), who claimed he “would never presume” to instruct a sitting justice when to retire, indicated earlier this year, according to Politico, that he believes that Breyer is “very familiar with the potential risks of a Republican president appointing his successor” and that he anticipates that “he has in mind the bests interests of the country and will make the right decision.”
Far-left court reform advocates from groups such as Demand Justice have been far more blunt in their assessments of the situation, with that organization’s executive director Brian Fallon saying, as Politico noted, that “people need to stop being sheepish about [demanding the justice’s retirement,” adding, “the longer that goes by without word from Breyer that he intends to step down…the more reckless it is.”
Though he has kept his cards close to the vest regarding the topic of retirement, Breyer has been outspoken about his opposition to what he sees as the over-politicization of the Supreme Court nomination process. As such, according to legal blogger David Lat, the pressure campaign being mounted by the left may have the opposite of its intended effect and cause Breyer to stand firm and retain his seat on the bench.
While Breyer made it clear that he has come to no final conclusions about when or under what circumstances his Supreme Court tenure will end, progressives everywhere were surely disappointed at the recent news that the justice hired a full compliment of law clerks for the upcoming term, in what could be the strongest signal yet that the octogenarian jurist intends to chart his own course, politics be damned.