April 12, 2024

For the sake of all of us, Sonia Sotomayor must retire from the U.S. Supreme Court | Mehdi Hasan

FTake Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It is Sonia Sotomayor who is the greatest liberal to have served on the Supreme Court in my adult life. The first Latina to hold the position of justice, she has had a brutally progressive path on the nation’s highest bench.

Whether it was her sole dissent in a 2016 North Carolina voting rights case (“the court’s conclusion… is a fiction”); her ingenious references to Ta-Nehisi Coates, James Baldwin and WEB DuBois in another 2016 dissent over unreasonable searches and seizures; or her scathing observation during Dobbs’ 2021 oral argument (“Will this institution survive the stink it creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are merely political acts?”), Sotomayor has stood head and shoulders above her liberal liberals reached out. and conservative colleagues who have been on the bench for the past fifteen years.

And so it is not without reason that it is called the ‘conscience of the Supreme Court’ (The nation), “the Supreme Court truth teller” (New York Times) and “the real liberal queen of the court” (Above the law).

I happen to agree 100% with all these descriptions. But—and it pains me to write these words—I also believe it is time for Judge Sotomayor to retire.


Okay, now it is time to remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Recalling how RBG, who had survived two bouts with cancer, refused to leave the Court despite calls to do so from leading liberals during Barack Obama’s second term. Returning to her insistence, in multiple interviews, that it was “misguided” to insist she retire and that she would only step down “when the time is right.” To remember how, on her deathbed in 2020, she told her granddaughter that her “deepest wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed” – and that it made no difference! Donald Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett as RBG’s replacement just eight days after her death, and Senate Republicans confirmed Barrett to RBG’s vacant seat just eight days before Election Day.

Are we really prepared for history to repeat itself, now that Joe Biden is trailing Trump in several swing states and the Democrats are also in danger of losing their razor-thin majority in the Senate? Sotomayor turns 70 in June. Of course, only Sotomayor knows the full status of her health, yet it is common knowledge that she has had type 1 diabetes since she was seven; paramedics had been called to her home; and is the only sitting judge who reportedly traveled with a medic. To be clear, she could easily — and God willing — survive a potential second Trump term and still be dishing out dissents from the bench in 2029.

But why would you take that risk? Why not retire now? Why don’t we stop at the same age as the judges in Belgium, Australia and Japan? forced to do that?

Let’s look at the three most obvious objections.

First, wouldn’t a replacement for Sotomayor, whom Sen. Joe Manchin must approve, be less progressive and more centrist than our only Latina, super-progressive justice? Maybe. But again, consider the alternative. Would we rather Biden replace Sotomayor with a centrist in 2024… or Trump replace her with a far-right Federalist Society guy in 2025? Or, what if Trump doesn’t win, but the Republican Party takes control of the Senate, preventing a second-term Biden from replacing her between 2025 and 2028?

Second, is there really any difference between a 6-3 conservative majority on the Court and a 7-2 majority? Isn’t everything already lost? Not quite. The damage to our democracy from a 7-2 hard-right Court would be in an entirely different way existential level. Yes, 6-3 has been a disaster for our progressive priorities (Dobbs! Bruen! Kennedy!) but there have also been a handful of important 5-4 victories (redistricting! Barbed wire at the border! Ghost guns!) in cases where Roberts and others another conservative have come over from the Dark Side. None of that happens in a 7-2 court. The far-right conservatives not only win most of the time, they win every time.

Third, how can anyone on the left dare ask the first, and only!, Latina justice to leave the Supreme Court?

It’s easy. Women in general, and Latinas in particular, will suffer the most from a 7-2 Supreme Court. It is because I am so concerned about the future of minority rights in this country that I – reluctantly – want Sotomayor to step aside.

This has nothing to do with her race or her gender. Forget RBG (again). Take Stephen Breyer. You remember Breyer, right? The studious and bespectacled liberal judge who left the Supreme Court in 2022, at the age of 83, partly due to an intense pressure campaign from the left.

Being a white man did not protect him from criticism – or from calls to resign. In 2021, the progressive group Demand Justice sent a billboard truck around the Supreme Court building with the message: “Breyer, retire.” I also participated. “Retire, retire, retire,” I said in one monologue for my Peacock show in 2021. “Otherwise, history will ultimately judge you, Judge Breyer.”

So why is it okay to pressure Breyer to retire, but not Sotomayor? This time around, Demand Justice isn’t taking a position on whether an older liberal judge should step down while a Democratic president and Senate could still replace them, and as HuffPost reports, “there is little open debate on the left about whether they should do. retire.”

It appears that Democrats are still not eager to exert power or influence on the highest court in the land. In 2013, Barack Obama met RBG for lunch and tried to push her to retire, but when the New York Times later reported that Obama “did not raise the subject of retirement directly with Justice Ginsburg.”

Compare and contrast with Donald Trump. Financial journalist David Enrich reveals in his book Dark Towers how the Trump family carried out a “coordinated charm offensive in the White House” to convince Judge Anthony Kennedy to retire in 2018. Trump himself, said Vanity fair“worked for months to assure Kennedy that his legacy would be in good hands.”

The offensive was a success. Out went self-described moderate Kennedy, in came far-right political operative Brett Kavanaugh.

If a change to the Supreme Court is to occur in 2024, Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer have just a few months to make it happen. And yet, they don’t seem all that concerned about Sotomayor’s age or health. Last week, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre called it “a personal decision that she has to make.”

A personal decision? The prospect of a 7-2 conservative Supreme Court, with a far-right Federalist Society appartichik taking the seat of “liberal queen” Sotomayor on the bench, should fill us all with dread.

Biden, Democrats-elect, and liberals and progressives across the board should encourage Sotomayor both publicly and privately to think about what she wants her legacy to be, to remember what happened to RBG, and not to take any gamble to dare with the future of our society. democracy.

If insanity does the same thing over and over again and expects different results, I’m sorry, but a liberal Supreme Court justice who is about to turn 70 and refuses to retire under the watch of a Democratic president and the Democratic Senate is nothing short of insane.

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