Sotomayor facing calls from liberal journalists to step down from Supreme Court this year: 'Why risk it?'

Journalists Josh Barro and Mehdi Hasan have called on Sotomayor to retire

Some liberal journalists as well as law professors have started to publicly pressure Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor to retire, so that President Biden could appoint a younger justice under a Democratic Senate. 

Journalist Josh Barro, who floated the idea in late January, said he was surprised Sotomayor hasn't already announced retirement plans after she expressed concern over the political make-up of the court. 

Barro broached the topic again in his newsletter published Saturday headlined, "Keep the Pressure on Sotomayor to retire." 

"The best thing Sotomayor can do to secure her legacy and increase the likelihood that liberals can gain ground on the court in the future is to retire after 15 years of service, enabling Biden to appoint a younger, liberal judge to replace her and serve for decades to come," he wrote. 

Mehdi Hasan and Justice Sotomayor

Mehdi Hasan is calling for Justice Sotomayor to step down from the Supreme Court, so liberals can nominate a younger judge under a Democratic president. (Left: (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images), Right:  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images))


Former MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan echoed Barro's concerns and called on Sotomayor to step down in a column in the Guardian published in early April. Despite his praise for the liberal justice, Hasan said Democrats were risking the future of democracy by not pubically calling for her retirement. 

"Biden, elected Democrats, and liberals and progressives across the board should be both publicly and privately encouraging Sotomayor to consider what she wants her legacy to be, to remember what happened with RBG, and to not take any kind of gamble with the future of our democracy," he wrote, referring to the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in 2020 and was replaced on the court by Trump nominee Amy Coney Barrett.

Hasan spoke to CNN's Jake Tapper about it as well, and admitted he had "PTSD" from 2020. 

"I think the Democrats didn‘t learn lessons. Look, what are we talking about, abortion rights. How did that happen? Dobbs [v. Jackson Women's Health Organization], how did the Florida decision happen today? [Florida Gov. Ron] DeSantis appointed five of the seven judges. Republicans are very good at stacking courts and getting their people on courts and thinking strategically about filling courts. Democrats aren't very good at seeing the power of the Supreme Court," Hasan told the other CNN panelists.


placeholderHasan questioned why Democrats would want to repeat history after Ginsburg's death. Many liberals rue that Ginsburg didn't step down during the first two years of President Obama's second term, when Democrats held a majority in the U.S. Senate and would likely have confirmed a progressive replacement.
Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer holds US Constitution

Former Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer holds up a copy of the United States Constitution as he announces his retirement in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022. (AP Newsroom)

"Why take the risk? You have a Democratic president and a Democratic Senate, and you have a justice who is about to turn 70," Hasan said.

Former Justice Stephen Breyer retired from the court in June 2022, after facing several calls from prominent liberals to step down. Sotomayor will turn 70 in June and is the oldest of the three Democratic-appointed judges on the court.

While no prominent Democratic lawmakers have explicitly called on Sotomayor to retire, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., recently told NBC News that Democrats should "learn a lesson," after Ginsburg's death and subsequent replacement by Barrett.


"I’m very respectful of Justice Sotomayor. I have great admiration for her. But I think she really has to weigh the competing factors," he said. "We should learn a lesson. And it’s not like there’s any mystery here about what the lesson should be. The old saying — graveyards are full of indispensable people, ourselves in this body included."

He told NBC, "Justices have to make their personal decisions about their health, and their level of energy, but also to keep in mind the larger national and public interest in making sure that the court looks and thinks like America."

Sen. Blumenthal and Justice Sotomayor

Democratic Sen. Blumenthal suggested Justice Sotomayor weigh the "competing factors" in her decision to retire. (Left: (Photo by Mykola Tys/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images) Right: (Photo by Jacquelyn Martin-Pool/Getty Images))

placeholderLaw professors have also called on Sotomayor to step down, including University of Colorado law professor Paul Campos. Campos said during an interview on CNN that there was a high possibility that even with a potential win for Biden in November, Democrats could still lose the Senate, and he wouldn't be able to fill the vacancy. 

"I think Sonia Sotomayor has been a great Supreme Court justice, but I definitely think she ought to announce that she is stepping down from the court this summer after the end of the current Supreme Court term," he said. "There is a very significant possibility that Joe Biden will not be able to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court during his second term because of Republican control of the Senate. And there's also a significant possibility that Donald Trump will be able to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court if he were to be reelected president and the GOP controls the Senate.


"The risks here are so high that I think Democrats and progressives, in general, need to learn from the example of the RBG fiasco, and I hope that Justice Sotomayor is really taking this to heart," he continued. 

Supreme Court historian Lucas Powe Jr. told HuffPost that he would love to see Sotomayor step down. 

"I would love to see Sotomayor retire," Powe said. "I would love to trade her for a 50-year-old justice."

The co-hosts of "The View" pushed back on the idea, as Whoopi Goldberg questioned why Justice Clarence Thomas was still sitting on the bench. 

'The View' co-hosts unload on former MSNBC host after he called on Sotomayor to retireVideo

"This take, I will say to my friend, I thought was the wrong take," co-host Sunny Hostin said, directly addressing Hasan's argument. "Especially because, as you pointed out, Clarence Thomas is 75. Samuel Alito, who wrote the Dobbs decision, is 74. John Roberts, the Chief Justice, is the same age as Justice Sotomayor. He’s 69. [Elena] Kagan is 63. When you point those out, how can you say this woman who, by the way, Justice Sotomayor is managing diabetes like millions of people in the world."

Hostin said she was a "a stalwart" on the court and said, "she’s been on the court for almost 15 years. It’s not the time to go."

Barro directly addressed Goldberg's argument about asking conservative justices to retire in a tweet on Saturday. 

"This response is so dumb, it's beneath the dignity of ‘The View,’ but that didn't stop Whoopi Goldberg," he said. 

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