Justice Stephen Breyer says he hasn’t decided when to retire as pressure grows
US supreme court justice Stephen Breyer has said he has not yet decided when he will retire, amid growing pressure from liberal activists and Democratic lawmakers who want to see the Biden administration nominate a younger liberal justice to the bench.
When asked whether he had decided when to step down, Breyer answered no in a CNN interview on Thursday. His ultimate decision will be based “primarily, of course, [on] health”, and “second, the court”, he said. The comments from Breyer, who is now 82 and the court’s oldest justice, follow his previous refusals to retire last month when the supreme court’s most recent term ended.
Breyer currently faces calls from liberal activists and Democratic lawmakers to step down immediately. Many on the political left are trying to persuade Breyer to make way for a younger justice who would be nominated by President Biden while the Senate still holds a thin Democratic majority.
Currently, the supreme court holds a conservative advantage at 6-3, with three justices nominated by President Trump during his presidency.
Nominated by President Clinton in 1994, Breyer said his “satisfaction” of now being the most senior liberal justice for the first time since Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death “has made a difference to me”.
Recently, Breyer has led several cases including the court’s dismissal of a challenge to the Affordable Care Act and the backing of Google in a major multibillion dollar copyright case brought by Oracle.
Throughout his tenure, Breyer has sought to build consensus across the justices, noting that outside politics should not play a role in the court’s work. In a recent lecture at Harvard law school, Breyer discussed the judges’ roles, saying: “They are loyal to the rule of law, not to the political party that helped to secure their appointment.”