Former Washington AG: Supreme Court is losing one of its last moderate justices

Jan 27, 2022, 11:21 AM
Stephen Breyer, Supreme Court...
Departing Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

With U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer announcing his plans to retire this week, former Washington state Attorney General Rob McKenna — who appeared in front of him on three separate occasions — reflected on Breyer’s legacy with KIRO Newsradio’s Dave Ross.

EXPLAINER: What’s next for the Supreme Court vacancy?

Breyer served on the Supreme Court for nearly three decades, and was known by many for his lengthy, multi-part questions, McKenna recalled.

“I remember being briefed ahead of time about each of the justices and the styles of their questioning during oral argument,” McKenna described. “What I was told about Justice Breyer is that he was well known for asking complicated, multi-part questions that you had to listen to very carefully.”

“After my first case in front of him, I’d had a question which I’d had trouble following,” he continued. “I went back and read the transcript of the argument afterward, and I really couldn’t understand the question, even then when I read it.”

That’s also part of what defined Breyer’s legacy as a “thoughtful” justice.

“I think he’ll be missed, and certainly as one of the remaining moderates on the court,” McKenna added.

The current makeup of the Supreme Court is overwhelmingly conservative, thanks in large part to the three justices appointed by former President Donald Trump in his White House tenure. While Breyer’s replacement won’t exactly make a dent in that dynamic, McKenna sees it as a loss for more moderate voices.

“I think of him as being somewhat similar to former Justice Anthony Kennedy, who’s also a moderate, or former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who is a moderate to conservative,” he said. “I don’t think he’ll be replaced by a moderate, and we should enjoy him while he’s finishing out his last term on the court.”

Listen to McKenna’s full discussion with Dave Ross below:

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Former Washington AG: Supreme Court is losing one of its last moderate justices