Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Another Justice Stepping Down?

Amidst Democrats' Judiciary Committee dilatory tactics and a much-critiqued Supreme Court decision about assisted suicide, a new rumor has emerged about the Court -- a rumor that, if true, might go a long way toward explaining why liberals in Congress and elsewhere have been going buck wild during the Alito hearings.

There has been speculation, on Confirm Them and elsewhere, that at least one Supreme Court justice other than Sandra Day O'Connor will be retiring in 2006. Past speculation over retirement has generally focused on justices who have either been advanced in age (John Paul Stevens) or had ongoing severe illnesses (Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the late Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist).

With this latest bout of speculation, Stevens and Ginsburg have both risen to the top as the prime contenders for retirement. For a moment, however, I urge you to throw conventional wisdom aside and ask yourself this question: Which current Supreme Court justice has a connection to a prominent Judiciary Democrat by way of previous employment?

Answer: Stephen Gerald Breyer. In 1974, Breyer -- who by then had already clerked for Justice Arthur Goldberg and spent some time in the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department -- was invited by none other than Senator Ted "Splash" Kennedy (D-Inebriation) to work as legal counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which was then in Democrat hands.

Could it be that the reason Tipsy Teddy was so infuriated -- and infuriating -- during last week's Alito hearings was that he has the inside scoop on an upcoming vacancy? Could it also be that he recognizes the importance of a dry run for the filibuster now because Democrats will need to be ready to actually pursue one in the near future?

Granted, the above is all speculation, but it is worth thinking about, if for no other reason than that it might go a long way toward explaining why Judicicary Democrats seemed so unhinged last week.

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