Sonia Sotomayor Staying on Supreme Court Poses ‘Risk,’ Law Professor Warns


Law professor Paul Campos warned on Saturday that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor remaining on the bench poses a “risk” amid the upcoming 2024 presidential election.

Sotomayor who was born in the Bronx, New York, is the first Latina and the third woman to serve on the Supreme Court. At 69 years old, Sotomayor is the oldest justice to have been picked by a Democrat as she was appointed by then-President Barack Obama in 2009. However, with Sotomayor being one of three liberal justices on the nine-person Court, a recent push for her to retire has emerged amid the 2024 election in which former President Donald Trump and incumbent President Joe Biden will face off as both men each won a series of primary elections to become their party’s presumptive presidential nominees.

In a Saturday interview on CNN’s Smerconish, Campos, a law professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, discussed the recent push for Sotomayor to retire, adding that the window may be closing for the Democratic Party.

“I think Sonia Sotomayor is a great Supreme Court justice, but I definitely think she ought to announce that she is stepping down from the Court this summer because the fact is that…there is a very significant possibility that Joe Biden will not be able to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court during his second term because of Republican control of the Senate. There’s also a significant possibility that Donald Trump will be able to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court if he were to be reelected president and the GOP controls the Senate,” Campos said.

Sonia Sotomayor
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor is seen on March 4 in Madrid. Law professor Paul Campos warned on Saturday that Sotomayor holding onto her seat poses a “risk” amid the upcoming 2024 presidential election.

Pablo Cuadra/Getty Images

He added: “The chance that one or both of those things will happen is so high that it just simply isn’t worth it to take that kind of a risk…It would really be in the public’s best interest for her to do a very statesmanlike thing and step down from the Court rather than running this risk, which would be a completely catastrophic development.”

Newsweek has reached out to the Supreme Court via email for comment.

The recent call for Sotomayor’s retirement comes as some fear a repeat of events after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died of pancreatic cancer at age 87 just weeks before Biden won the 2020 election. Ginsburg, seemingly betting she would outlive a Republican-held Senate and Trump’s presidency, did not retire before her death leaving Trump to nominate her replacement, Amy Coney Barrett, which cemented the 6-3 conservative majority.

Previously discussing these fears, Campos told the HuffPost, “The cost of her [Sotomayor] failing to be replaced by a Democratic president with a Democratic Senate would be catastrophic. You have the votes right now, and you’re not going to have the votes a year from now. It’s really that simple.”

However, others are weary of pushing Sotomayor’s retirement due to her willingness to speak out about her frustration with the conservative majority.

“It’s absolutely a conversation that’s being had,” Molly Coleman, the executive director of People’s Parity Project (PPP), a progressive activist group aimed at reforming the legal system, told Politico last year. “But the public conversations are very different from the behind the scenes conversations.”

The average retirement age for recent justices is when they’re in their 80s, and since 1970, the average tenure has lasted approximately 28 years.