Could the two most-conservative Supreme Court justices retire before the November election? Rumors are swirling. Here’s why.
Buried within Washington Post national political reporter Robert Costa’s analysis Wednesday that Trump supporters are hoping “to use conservative anger at Justice Roberts” as an “energizing moment” for the President’s troubled campaign, is the news that far right Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is “privately seen by Trump’s aides as the most likely to retire this year.”
The potential retirement of Justice Thomas, who by most measures is the most conservative jurist on the nation’s top court, set off a firestorm on social media among some court-watching conservatives and liberals – even though Costa noted that “Thomas has not given any indication” he is retiring.
Costa’s reporting was, he says, seen by far right wing pundit Hugh Hewitt, who told his “radio audience this morning that he hears from several leading conservatives that Justice Alito, 70, is considering retirement, and adds that he also hears the Alito family is ready to leave Washington, D.C.”
Hewitt, in his usual self-aggrandizing way, told his listeners, “I’m hardly a ref, but I got a column in the Washington Post, and so they start working me about, ‘You know this person would be great if Alito quit.'”
Whether or not Alito is considering retirement, the mere prospect of not just one but possibly two Supreme Court seats opening before the election is giving conservatives hope, and liberals terror.
Not even trying hard to hide their excitement, some on the religious right are especially ecstatic President Donald Trump might get to place one or two more radical jurists on the Supreme Court.
An attorney for the far Christian-right law and anti-LGBTQ advocacy firm First Liberty Institute responded with thinly-veiled glee, couching his happiness as concern for Justice Alito’s family.
These rumors—which we heard months ago before they initially died down—have indeed really picked up steam over the past couple of weeks.
Sam Alito is a terrific justice who would be difficult to replace, but we should all hope he makes the best decision for his family. https://t.co/OmBVFuBIVb
— Josh Hammer (@josh_hammer) July 1, 2020
The Justice Correspondent for The Nation, Elie Mystal, responded to a legal correspondent for New York’s local Fox station, implying Alito might be more likely to retire than Thomas.
Two important points:
1. Clarence Thomas loves his job.
2. Sam Alito hates his job. https://t.co/p94j7I8NAc
— Elie Mystal (@ElieNYC) July 1, 2020
Vox Senior Correspondent Ian Millhiser, who literally wrote the book on the Supreme Court, also puts more weight in Alito retiring:
Hewitt is the opposite of a reliable source, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Alito does retire. Alito is the most reliable partisan on the Court, and the best thing for the Republican Party is for him to step down and be replaced by a younger Republican. https://t.co/8e9qBCvVzp
— Ian Millhiser (@imillhiser) July 1, 2020
Of course, on the left, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is also of retirement age and has (successfully) faced health issues.
Whoever is President at 12:01 PM ET on January 20, 2020, may have an opportunity to move the court fully one way or the other.