Here we go again, maybe, perhaps … but I surely hope not.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer announced today his intention to retire from the court at the end of the court’s term. He is paving the way for President Biden to nominate a successor.
Is this a big deal? You bet it is! Presidents have a chance to make a lasting impact on our judicial system that will remain far longer than their terms in office. However, let’s consider some key elements.
Breyer is one of three “liberal” justices serving on the court. A Biden appointment isn’t going to change the nine-member court’s ideological balance. Donald Trump nominated three justices during his term on the court, the last one of whom delivered the strong conservative majority that now sits on the nation’s highest court.
Progressives have been hollering for Breyer to step down for a long time. They want a woman to join the court, along with Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Amy Coney Barrett. President Biden already has pledged to nominate a woman, and she likely will be a Black woman. As NBC News reports: Biden has pledged to make just such an appointment. Among likely contenders are federal Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, former Breyer law clerk, and Leondra Kruger, a justice on California’s Supreme Court.
Is all of this a done deal? Well, consider that recent judicial appointments have been subjected to harsh partisan disagreements between Republicans and Democrats in the Senate, which has confirmation authority.
President Biden is going to move rapidly to nominate someone. Indeed, time is not his friend. The midterm election is coming up this fall, the court’s new term begins in early October and the president will need to get someone seated with whom he feels comfortable.
It’ll be a fight but let us hope is not the kind of bloodbath to which we have grown accustomed.