What Justice Breyer Has Said About SCOTUS Term Limits

In 2021:

Fox News’ Chris Wallace: “What about term limits? People, even justices, live a lot longer now than they did back in the 18th century. Would it lower the political heat if, say, a justice served for 18 years instead of a life term?”

Breyer: “I think you could do that.” –9/12/21

In 2021:

Breyer: “It would have to be a long term, because you don’t want the person there thinking of his next job, […but having term limits] would make my life easier.” –8/27/21

In 2020:

PBS News’ Judy Woodruff: “You said in April of last year that you wouldn’t mind seeing term limits imposed on Supreme Court justices as long as they were long, and you mentioned 18 years. Do you still hold that view?”

Breyer: “It would be just as good to have very long terms. Yeah, that’s fine, as long as the term is long. What I was thinking of when I’m asked the question is that you don’t want someone in this job, that I have now, thinking of what his or her next job will be, and that is why it has to be a long term.” –10/22/20

In 2019:

Breyer: “I think it would be fine to have long terms, say 18 years or something like that, for a Supreme Court justice. It would make life easier. You know, I wouldn’t have to worry about when I’m going to retire or not. […] And moreover, it must be long. And the reason that it must be long is because you don’t want somebody looking for his next job after — while he’s a member of the court.” – 4/22/19

In 2016:

GW Law Prof. Alan Morrison: Should the Supreme Court Justices continue to have an, in effect, life tenure? Have control over when they resign? Or should there be an eighteen-year term, as has been proposed, with the President having an opportunity in the first and third year of his or her term to appoint one justice so that you can’t decide, for example, when you want to retire because of whom you think the President might appoint or not appoint. What do you think about that as a proposition?

Breyer: I don’t want to say a particular plan, but I do think that if there were a long term—eighteen, twenty years, something like that—I would say that was fine. In fact, it’d make my life a lot simpler, to tell you the truth. It would!

Morrison: No one would ask you when you’re going to retire.

Breyer: Correct. The thing you don’t want is a term that is so short that the person is sitting there thinking about his next job. Absolutely out. And as long as you can overcome that, fine. But the problem is, would it require a constitutional amendment? You don’t want to open up a whole lot of things that might lead to other things. So I haven’t, you know, put that on the front burner. But nonetheless, the answer is: fine. 1/7/16

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