Friday, September 10, 2021


I haven't listened to the entire Nina Totenberg interview of Justice Stephen Breyer, but the bit I heard last night on NPR was exasperating. Breyer is doing the interview circuit to promote a new book.
NINA TOTENBERG, BYLINE: ... You did pretty well in the 2020 term. You wrote some very important opinions on the ACA, on student speech. You have advanced some important compromises on the court this past term. So, at least as I look at things now, I would guess that at some time relatively early in the upcoming term, you will announce plans to retire. Am I wrong?

STEPHEN BREYER: I do not believe I should stay on the Supreme Court or want to stay on the Supreme Court until I die. And when exactly I should retire or will retire has many complex parts to it, and I'm not going beyond what I said for the simple reason that I would like this interview to be about my book.
Totenberg tells us:
That's classic Breyer - self-deprecating and brutally honest about his motives.
What's "self-deprecating" about saying "I want people to buy my book and I don't appreciate you asking me about anything else"? And it's not "brutally honest" either, because his decision-making process doesn't seem particularly complex. Totenberg says:
Breyer made clear in our interview his 27 years on the High Court have taught him an important lesson. It takes years, somewhere between two and five years, for a new justice to really settle in.

BREYER: People have to become acclimatized to that institution and work out who they're going to be as judges. It takes a while.

TOTENBERG: The implication, not said, is that with a docket this inflammatory this term, no new Biden-appointed justice could do as well as he could to prevent or soften what liberals would call a wholesale slaughter of Supreme Court precedents.
So that's his rationale: No young whippersnapper can handle these SOBs as well as moi can, with moi's vast experience. So of course I'm staying on. Not for my sake -- heaven forbid! -- but for the good of the country!

And that's why President Biden might not get to place any justices on the Supreme Court before Republicans retake the Senate and block all his picks for two or more years. It's all Breyer's ego.

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