Justice Breyer Warns Against Packing the Court

Justice Breyer Warns Against Packing the Court

(UnitedVoice.com) – Of the three branches of the federal government, the US Supreme Court is historically the most approved of by the public. It’s the one institution that isn’t overtly political; both the left and the right heavily scrutinize its rulings. According to Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, it’s not the court that politicizes cases. It’s the other branches of government.

On Tuesday, April 6, Justice Breyer gave a two-hour remote speech as part of Harvard’s Scalia Lecture Series. He offered a dire warning about packing the court, building consensus, and avoided the Left’s push to force the court’s oldest member into retirement. Breyer is 82 years old and was an alumnus who taught at Harvard Law School. It was a rare glimpse into the Justice’s recent thoughts on the court’s politicization by Democrats.

Breyer Pushes Back on Court Packing

Although Justice Breyer didn’t directly push back against Democrats, it was obvious where he was directing his words. In the wake of Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation last October in the lead-up to the election, many Democrats promised to overhaul the Supreme Court by adding new seats that would enable them to confirm more liberal justices. Effectively, they would erode the current 6-3 majority of Republican appointees to the court using a process called “packing the court.”

The US Constitution does not specify a number or formula to determine how many justices sit on the nation’s highest court. Instead, it leaves that decision to the political process in Congress.

Breyer warned that those who seek “to make those whose initial instincts may favor important structural changes, such as forms of ‘court-packing,’ think long and hard before embodying those changes in law.” He added that political actions taken by partisan Democrats could diminish the trust of the American people in the court and questioned how court-packing could “affect the rule of law itself.”

Breyer Says the Court Is Not Political

While the media, politicians, and partisan activists make hay of the court’s decisions and use it as part of election strategy, Breyer said the court was anything but political. In fact, he cited the high court’s decision not to get involved in the 2020 election fraud allegations as the most recent example. However, some could argue that the court wasn’t apolitical at all. It was very political in choosing not to listen to the cases, and in doing so, took a side without putting it in permanent ink.

The 2020 election aside, Breyer pointed to decisions that could make both conservatives and liberals happy. However, that wasn’t his point. He stressed that the court doesn’t consider politics when deciding on a case. Decisions are based on law and the interpretation of the Constitution.

Whether or not he’s right is subject to real debate and is at the heart of Supreme Court nominations. Whether a justice believes in the original Constitutional intent or doesn’t is the pivotal question. If Democrats get their choice, the Constitution’s original meaning won’t matter because it would ruin their leftist agenda that’s at odds with the nation’s founding.

Will Breyer Retire

After Joe Biden’s inauguration, the left began calling for Breyer’s retirement. They don’t want to give the GOP another opportunity to derail a liberal pick for the court or gain an opportunity to replace a left-leaning justice with a right-leaning one. However, Breyer doesn’t sound like a person who’s ready for retirement. Supreme Court Justices serve for life or until they decide to retire, and some openly regretted retiring before they were ready. Two, in particular, were Sandra Day O’Connor and John Paul Stevens.

If Breyer is correct that the court isn’t political, then retirement isn’t a political decision. Perhaps the court’s apolitical nature is one reason the public still views the Supreme Court with admiration. Breyer is right on one account. If the Democrats do pack the court, it will hurt its standing with the public.

Don Purdum, Independent Political Analyst

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