Justice Stephen Breyer: No 9th justice, no problem

U.S.  Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer in March 2012.

Story highlights

  • Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer says Supreme Court can function with eight justices
  • The court has been acting short-handed since Justice Antonin Scalia's death

(CNN)Despite missing a ninth member for more than eight months now, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer expressed confidence Monday the high court would function properly if thrown into the crucible of presidential politics.

Citing past periods in US history when the court had an even numbers of justices, Breyer told a panel on MSNBC, "the mechanics work about the same" even in the absence of a potential deciding vote.
    Donald Trump's campaign has, over the past few weeks, pointed the Supreme Court's role in deciding the 2000 election -- when by a 5-4 vote it effectively handed the White House to George W. Bush -- as his rationale for keeping the country "in suspense" over whether he would accept the November 8 results.
    Asked by the MSBNC panel if he believed his colleague, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, would recuse herself from an election-related case, Breyer said he had no interest in engaging "hypotheticals."
    Ginsburg was critical of Trump this summer, calling him "a faker," who "says whatever comes into his head at the moment." She also questioned how he had "gotten away" with not releasing his tax returns.
    Trump responded to Ginsburg on Twitter, calling for her to resign and saying "her mind is shot."
    Ginsburg later expressed regret for making her feelings public, saying, "Judges should avoid commenting on a candidate for public office."
    Breyer also dismissed suggestions that the court was, at its core, a political body, riven with internal intrigue.
    "The inside story of a court is, normally, there is no inside story," he said. "Pretty much what you see is what you get."