Speaking to The New York Times, Associate Justice Stephen Breyer said he is still mulling over his potential retirement. At 83 years old, Breyer is the oldest member sitting on the Supreme Court.
“There are a lot of blurred things there, and there are many considerations,” he said. “They form a whole. I’ll make a decision.”
Citing the late Justice Antonin Scalia, Breyer said one of the reasons behind his decision to mull over his retirement is out of concern that his seat could go to an ideologically opposed successor.
“He said, ‘I don’t want somebody appointed who will just reverse everything I’ve done for the last 25 years,’” Breyer said, adding: “I don’t think I’m going to stay there till I die — hope not.”
Breyer also voiced concerns about proposals to alter the Supreme Court, such as expanding the number of justices. He cautioned those who’ve advocated for such measures to reconsider.
“If A can do it, B can do it. And what are you going to have when you have A and B doing it?” he said. “Nobody really knows, but there’s a risk, and how big a risk do you want to take?”
There is not currently a vacancy on the Supreme Court but progressives have been pressuring Breyer to retire to ensure that the vacancy occurs while the Democrats are in control of the Senate. Breyer has not indicated that he will retire. However, if he did, the vacancy would allow President Joe Biden to nominate someone younger and perhaps bring more diversity to the court even if a Democratic appointment does not affect the current 6-3 conservative majority.
Progressive activists have also cited fears of a Republican victory in next year’s midterm elections. Should Breyer, who turned 83 on August 15, die or retire then, he would provide the GOP the opportunity to secure a 7-2 majority on the court.
Alan is a writer, editor, and news junkie based in New York.