Angry liberals demand Breyer retire after justice warns against court packing

As the oldest liberal on the court, Breyer already faced whispers to retire. But after a Harvard talk the noise escalated to angry shouts.

Published: April 9, 2021 11:39pm

Updated: April 10, 2021 7:54pm

Justice Stephen Breyer has long been the target of a whisper campaign among liberals hoping he will retire and give President Biden a fresh appointment to the Supreme Court.

But the volume got a lot louder on the left this week after the court's longest serving liberal warned against the political movement known as "court packing" and the temptation for judges to become political in a hyper-partisan nation.

"To make those whose initial instincts may favor important structural change, or other similar institutional changes, such as forms of court packing, think long and hard before they embody those changes in law," Breyer told to Harvard University students and alumni in a speech earlier this week.

He added, "If the public sees judges as politicians in robes, its confidence in the courts and in the rule of law can only diminish, diminishing the court's power, including its power to act as a check on other branches. My experience of more than 30 years... as a judge has shown me that once men and women take the judicial oath they take that oath to heart. They are loyal to the rule of law, not to the political party that helped to secure their appointment"

The reaction on the left was fierce and unforgiving.

"It's hard to pick which words in that statement I find the most naive, misguided and self-serving," MSNBC commentator Mehdi Hasan wrote in a column calling for Breyer to retire. "Where on Earth has he been over the past two decades as the Supreme Court delivered one partisan decision after another? Napping?"

The liberal group Demand Justice began an online petition campaign entitled "Retire, Breyer" that urged the justice to step down so an black woman could be appointed.

"Tell Justice Breyer: Put the country first. Don’t risk your legacy to an uncertain political future. Retire now," the group said on Twitter.


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