Justice Breyer Comes Out against Packing the Supreme Court

POLITICS & POLICY
Associate Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer arrives for the swearing in ceremony of Judge Neil Gorsuch in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, D.C., April 10, 2017. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer warned against packing the court in a speech at Harvard Law School on Tuesday.

Breyer said his lecture’s purpose was to “make those whose initial instincts may favor important structural or other similar institutional changes, such as forms of ‘court-packing,’ think long and hard before embodying those changes in law,” according to The Washington Post.

Some progressives called on President Biden and other Democrats to support court-packing, or expanding the number of justices on the Supreme Court bench, amid Republicans’ confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett. Barrett’s appointment gave conservatives a 6-3 majority on the bench.

However, Breyer cautioned against such a move in his speech.

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The court’s authority is based on “a trust that the court is guided by legal principle, not politics,” Breyer said, adding that “structural alteration motivated by the perception of political influence can only feed that perception, further eroding that trust.”

“If the public sees judges as ‘politicians in robes,’ its confidence in the courts, and in the rule of law itself, can only diminish, diminishing the court’s power, including its power to act as a ‘check’ on the other branches,” Breyer said.

At 84, Breyer is the oldest justice on the Court and one of three liberals on the bench. Breyer may face pressure from Democrats to retire during President Biden’s term, so that Biden may appoint another liberal justice.

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