Will Justice Sotomayor Retire This Year? Here's Why She Might.

Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP, Pool

Democrats are panicking about the 2024 election. We know this not just because they're trying to put Trump in jail, or because they're still talking about replacing Joe Biden. We know this because they've been pressuring Justice Sonia Sotomayor to retire while the Democrats still control the White House and the Senate.

Whoever is president for the next four years is likely to see as many as three Supreme Court vacancies. Those likely to retire are conservative justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and left-wing Justice Sonia Sotomayor. If Trump wins in November, Thomas and Alito's retirements wouldn't change the balance of the court, but Sotomayor's would bring the 6-3 conservative majority to a 7-2 majority.

The left previously succeeded in getting Justice Breyer to retire perhaps earlier than he would have otherwise, and Sotomayor is now their latest target because of her age and health.

But will she cave?

There are arguably some legitimate reasons to believe that she might. But it may not be because of her age or her health. This past week, she admitted that recent rulings by the court have brought her to tears.

"There are days that I've come to my office after an announcement of a case and closed my door and cried," she said at Harvard's Radcliffe Institute Friday during a talk she gave when she accepted an award there. "'There have been those days. And there are likely to be more."

Though she didn't say which cases turned her into a blubbering toddler who didn't get her way, it has clearly happened several times under the 6-3 conservative majority.

"There are moments when I'm deeply, deeply sad. There are moments when, yes, even I feel desperation. We all do," she said. "But you have to own it, you have to accept it, you have to shed the tears and then you have to wipe them and get up."

It sure doesn't sound like she's accepting it. In fact, it sounds like her job is making her miserable, and if you're miserable at your job, what's the point in sticking around? In fact, that might be the key to getting her to step aside.

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Liberal journalist Josh Barro noted earlier this year that Democrats aren't likely to publicly pressure her to retire because of identity politics. As the first Latina justice on the court, Democrats just aren't going do it. He said this was "gutless."

"You’re worried about putting control of the Court completely out of reach for more than a generation, but because she is Latina, you can’t hurry along an official who’s putting your entire policy project at risk?" he wrote. "If this is how the Democratic Party operates, it deserves to lose."

Yeah, they deserve to lose for a lot of reasons.

But, Barro's concern is actually well-founded. "If Sotomayor doesn’t retire this year, she’ll be making a bet that she will remain fit to serve until possibly age 78 or even 82 or 84—and she’ll be forcing the whole Democratic Party to make that high-stakes bet with her." 

According to recent reports, Sotomayor travels with a medic because of her diabetes. That said, if she was truly concerned that her health was that much of an issue, she probably would have simply retired and not made the same choice as Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who refused calls to retire and passed away in 2020, giving Trump one more opportunity to fill a vacancy on the court before the election. Sotomayor may not see her health as an issue that should prompt her resignation in 2024, but if she's truly so miserable because the conservative majority is following the Constitution so much, is there any reason why she would want to put herself through that for the next four years?

Honestly, I don't know the answer. But, her public whining about how miserable she feels doing her job is practically inviting Democrats to privately tell her to resign and let someone younger have a chance to replace her and insulate the liberal wing of the court.


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