Supreme Court's Breyer Suggests Support for Term Limits Associate Justice Stephen Breyer in 2021. (Photo by Erin Schaff /POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
By Fran Beyer | Sunday, 12 September 2021 11:16 AM
Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer on Sunday expressed support for term limits for jurists on the nation’s high court.
In an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Breyer suggested, however, that if term limits were changed, it would have to consider how quickly turnover might be.
“I think you could do that,” he said in response to a question on whether he supported changing the lifetime guarantee for a Supreme Court justice.
“It should be a very long term because you don't want the judge who was holding that term to start thinking about his next job,” he warned.
“But it would make life easier for me,” the 83-year-old jurist said.
Breyer also conceded a “political environment” that has surrounded the nomination and confirmation of Supreme Court justices, noting it can’t be changed until the public wants it to.
“I was confirmed and I was nominated. In the confirmation process in the nomination process,” —he said. “I say usually when you ask me about that, and people do, I say it's like asking for the recipe for chicken looking from the point of view of the chicken.
"And I will say — that's a glib joke, but the truth of the joke is that's not — that's the political environment. You may disapprove of it, I may disapprove of it, and if enough people in the public want it to change or be modified one way or the other, it will be."
Breyer said he doesn’t intend to die on the bench, but retiring involves “many considerations” — and that he understood the concern of the late Justice Antonin Scalia that his work would be undone by a successor.
“Undo everything I've done? I see the point,” he said of Scalia’s assertion. “And probably in the background there's something there.”
He added that Democrats who’ve called for his retirement “are entitled to their opinion.”
“I think they … not only they understand the political world much better than I, they understand it pretty well, and there we are,” he said.
“There are many factors in fact, quite a few and the role of institutional considerations and… I can't say I take anything perfectly into account, but in my own mind I think about those things,” he added.
“I didn't retire because I had decided on balance. I wouldn't retire,” he said.
Breyer also said he’s mindful of his legacy on the high court, referencing something Thurgood Marshall said before him.
“I'm there for everybody. I'm not just there for the Democrats. I'm not just there for the Republicans. And I'm not just there because the president was a Democrat who appointed me. It's a very great privilege to be in that job and part of it is to remember that your there for everyone.
“You have to give your all. You have to work as hard as you can. So you see, I think it's important we have trust,” he added.