Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, one of three liberal voices on the bench, said on Tuesday that expansion of the court would hurt its standing in the public consciousness. He warned proponents of “court packing” that such measures carry immense risks.
Justice Breyer made the remarks as part of a speech he gave to Harvard’s Law School. At one point, he noted that the American people have come to expect the court to stay above the political fray, “a trust that the court is guided by legal principle, not politics.” His remarks come at a time when there have been calls for President Biden to push for adding seats to the Supreme Court to counter-balance the 6-3 conservative edge. Former president Trump appointed three of the current justices during his time in office. But Breyer said expansion would only undermine the court.
Some on social media think it’s too late to be concerned about erosion in the confidence of the Supreme Court. After all, Mitch McConnell led a Senate blockade of President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland, arguing it was an election year, only to then see republicans bulldoze the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett just weeks before the 2020 general election.
There is also the fact that Breyer is 82 years old and facing pressure to retire while Biden is in office to ensure his seat is filled by a voice of similar liberal concern.
We should note that Breyer gave no indication that he was considering stepping down from the bench.