Progressive Groups Step Up Calls for Justice Breyer to Retire

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Politics|Progressive groups step up calls for Justice Breyer to retire.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer in 2015. He is now 82.
Credit...Damon Winter/The New York Times

Progressive groups are stepping up calls for Justice Stephen G. Breyer to “immediately” retire from the Supreme Court and allow President Biden to nominate a successor while Democrats control the Senate, which approves judicial nominees.

In an advertisement to be released on Friday, 18 legal scholars will describe Justice Breyer as “a remarkable jurist” but say “it is time” for him to announce his retirement. Another advertisement — endorsed by 13 progressive groups, including Black Lives Matter, Women’s March and Battle Born Collective — was released on Wednesday.

“President Biden must have the opportunity to nominate a successor without delay and fulfill his pledge to put the first Black woman on the Supreme Court,” that advertisement read.

At 82, Justice Breyer is the court’s oldest justice, and has served as a member of its liberal wing for nearly 27 years. He has thus far appeared to resist calls to step down from his life tenure, frustrating Democrats who argue that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made a terrible miscalculation in deciding not to retire under President Barack Obama, when she was in her early 80s. Justice Ginsburg died in September, allowing President Donald J. Trump to name her successor and shift the Supreme Court to the right.

The ad campaigns — one appearing in the print edition of The New York Times and the other in Politico — came just days after Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the minority leader, threatened to block any Supreme Court nominee put forth by Mr. Biden in 2024 if the Republican Party regains control of the Senate next year. Both were funded by Demand Justice, a progressive advocacy group that was created after the 2016 presidential election and the Republican stonewalling of Mr. Obama’s final Supreme Court nominee.

“Anyone who still doubted that Stephen Breyer not retiring could end in disaster should pay attention to Mitch McConnell’s recent comments,” said Brian Fallon, the executive director of Demand Justice. “If Republicans regain control of the Senate before Breyer’s replacement is confirmed, the court’s legitimacy and our democracy will be at even greater risk.”

Justice Breyer has been adamant that politics should play no role in judges’ work and recently suggested that it should also not figure into their decisions about when to retire.

“My experience of more than 30 years as a judge has shown me that, once men and women take the judicial oath, they take the oath to heart,” he said in a lecture at Harvard Law School in April. “They are loyal to the rule of law, not to the political party that helped to secure their appointment.”

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