Justice Breyer: “I Don’t Intend to Die on the Court”

The 83-year-old jurist continues to reject calls for his retirement.

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer Steven Senne/AP Photo

Fight disinformation. Get a daily recap of the facts that matter. Sign up for the free Mother Jones newsletter.

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer has been on something of a media blitz this past week, giving a series of well-publicized interviews about his new book, The Authority of the Court and the Peril of Politics. Today, he appeared on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, where he once again disappointed Democrats by refusing to say when he might retire.

Liberals are desperately hoping the 83-year-old jurist will step down soon, while there’s a Democrat in the White House and the partly still narrowly controls the Senate. They fear that if Breyer doesn’t call it a career, he will join the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg in being replaced by an arch conservative who will undo any legacy of progress he had hoped to achieve. But the justice has shown no signs of budging.

Breyer, the avuncular former Harvard law professor best known for issuing mind-boggling legal hypotheticals from the bench, has been stubbornly resisting those calls, even while milking the speculation for coverage of his new book. Over the past week, he’s given an unusual number of media interviews—interviews that have been, as most Supreme Court justice interviews are, rather opaque and pedantic and not especially newsworthy. On Fox, after waving around his pocket Constitution like a bespectacled Ammon Bundy, Breyer launched into a discussion about Alexander Hamilton and a civics lesson on the three branches of government, before Wallace got to the question on everyone’s mind: his potential retirement.

Wallace showed Breyer a clip of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who said in no uncertain terms back in 2012 that he did not want a Democratic president to replace him with someone who would undo all the work he’d done over 25 years to move the court to the right. In response, Breyer said, “I don’t intend to die on the bench,” but beyond that, he explained that he didn’t retire this spring because, well, he didn’t want to. “I didn’t retire, because I decided on balance that I wouldn’t retire,” he said.

But have you heard he has a new book out?

FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and billionaire owners wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2021 demands.

payment methods

FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and billionaire owners wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2021 demands.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate