Breyer: Yes, I Know Politics Plays a Role in My Decision

Supreme Court justice talks to 'New York Times' about his retirement considerations
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 27, 2021 10:55 AM CDT
Breyer: I Won't Stay on Court 'Until I Die'
In this April 23, 2021, file photo, Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer sits during a group photo at the Supreme Court in Washington.   (Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP, Pool)

Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer has issued plenty of verdicts over the course of his life. The problem is "I don't like making decisions about myself." The ranking liberal justice and oldest member of the court at 83 is facing incredible pressure to retire while Democrats hold a slim Senate majority that could approve President Biden's pick for his successor. But he's struggling to make a decision, he told Adam Liptak of the New York Times on Thursday.

Breyer said he's weighing "many considerations," including who would name his successor. He recalled the late Justice Antonin Scalia once told him, "I don't want somebody appointed who will just reverse everything I’ve done for the last 25 years." "That will inevitably be in the psychology" of his decision, Breyer said. He said it was appropriate for a justice to consider the party or politics of the sitting president at the time, as a retirement decision is not a judicial act. But he also said labeling justices as conservative or liberal undermines the court's authority.

"A judge's loyalty is to the rule of law, not the political party that helped to secure his or her appointment," he argues in his new book, The Authority of the Court and the Peril of Politics, out next month. According to Washington Monthly reviewer Garrett Epps, the book suggests Breyer may be determined to serve on the court "until he is bloody well ready to leave it." He told the Times that term limits "would make my life easier," but also voiced concerns about a justice "thinking of his next job" while on the court. Ultimately, he said he would retire—at some point. "I don't think I'm going to stay there till I die," he said. "Hope not." (More Stephen Breyer stories.)

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