Feb 10, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Sotomayor: SCOTUS faces "unprecedented" threat in confirmation battles

Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor sits during a group photo of the Justices at the Supreme Court in Washington, DC on April 23, 2021.

Sonia Sotomayor sits during a group photo of the justices at the Supreme Court on April 23, 2021. Photo: Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor said Wednesday she sees an "unprecedented" threat to the court as the confirmation battle to fill Justice Stephen Breyer's seat looms.

Driving the news: "I have concerns that we might be in crisis as norms in the nomination process are broken," Sotomayor said at a virtual lecture for New York University Law School.

  • "As more senators, congressional representatives, governors, mayors, local politicians and the media question the legitimacy of the court, many of them heap scorn on the court," Sotomayor said, adding, "the threat is greater and unprecedented than any time in our history."

The big picture: Justice Stephen Breyer announced his retirement from the Supreme Court last month, setting up a battle to confirm President Biden's first Supreme Court opening, Axios' Oriana Gonzalez reports.

  • The retirement also sets Sotomayor up to be the most senior liberal justice after Breyer's retirement, which is expected for this summer.
  • Biden has pledged that he will nominate a Black woman to replace Breyer, and he said earlier this month that he will announce the nominee by the end of February.

What she's saying: "The more partisan the voting becomes, the less belief that the public is likely to have that Congress is making a merit-based or qualifications-based assessment of judicial nominees," Sotomayor said.

  • "We need the public to hold its elected officials accountable in respecting the judiciary and its work," she said. "We can only do it if the public understands the importance of our independence."

Go deeper: Stephen Breyer formally announces retirement from Supreme Court

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