Apr 11, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Democrats resist calls for Sotomayor to retire

Photo of Sonia Sotomayor

Photo: Pablo Cuadra/Getty Images

Calls for Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor to retire aren't catching on.

Why it matters: Sotomayor's future on the high court has become a prism that reflects many of Democrats' greatest anxieties — pitting activists who fear a loss in 2024 and an even bigger disadvantage in the courts against those who say it's disrespectful to pressure the first Latina justice to step aside.

  • At least for now, though, it's a conversation confined to activists and pundits.
  • Unlike the effort to get the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to retire, Democratic lawmakers seem happy for Sotomayor to stay on the bench.

State of play: Ginsburg's refusal to retire ultimately allowed then-President Trump to name her replacement, giving conservatives a 6-3 majority on the high court.

  • Democrats are well aware that Republicans have cleaned their clocks in the judiciary and desperately don't want to lose any more ground.
  • Those fears have coalesced around Sotomayor largely because she is the oldest of the three liberal justices, at 69, and is diabetic.
  • Sotomayor reportedly traveled with a medic in 2018, and paramedics were called to her home the same year.

What they're saying: A handful of prominent op-ed writers and law professors have said Sotomayor should take the opportunity to step down while Democrats still control the White House and Senate.

  • Sen. Richard Blumenthal said last week that Sotomayor is "a highly accomplished and, obviously, fully functioning justice right now," but that "we should learn a lesson. And it's not like there's any mystery here about what the lesson should be."

The other side: The pressure isn't mounting much beyond that.

  • "It makes no sense to me. I think Justice Sotomayor is doing a terrific job, and I think she'll be doing a terrific job for years to come," Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) told HuffPost.
  • "She's going full speed ahead," Sen. Sen. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), a member of the Judiciary Committee, told The Hill.

Between the lines: Ginsburg was already 81 when Democrats pressed her to retire ahead of the 2014 midterms. Sotomayor is not yet 70.

  • She still makes public appearances, is active during oral arguments and has had no known health episodes aside from treatment for her diabetes. Ginsburg had survived two bouts of cancer and a fall that broke two ribs by 2014.
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