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Justice Stephen Breyer To Retire, Allowing Biden To Make First Pick For Supreme Court

Stephen Breyer
Stephen Breyer Photo Credit: SCOTUS

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer announced that he will retire at the end of his current term, paving the way for President Joe Biden to handpick his replacement.

The 83-year-old liberal judge is the oldest member of the court, having been nominated by former President Bill Clinton and taking his seat in 1994 alongside the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

His retirement will take effect at the end of his current term after serving 28 years on the court.

Biden said when he was a 2020 presidential candidate that his first Supreme Court nominee would be a Black woman. 

Amy Coney Barrett, the most recent justice nominated to the court by former President Donald Trump, filled Ginsburg’s seat following her death in September 2020.

Following Breyer’s departure over the summer and his replacement, there will still be a 6-3 conservative majority on the court. His replacement is expected to be confirmed by the Senate without issue as the Senate is narrowly controlled by the Democrats.

Before serving on the Supreme Court, Breyer was a professor at Harvard Law School, was a special assistant to the US Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust, and assistant special prosecutor on the Watergate Prosecution Force in 1973. He also served on the First Circuit Court of Appeals from 1980 to 1994 when he was nominated to the high court by Clinton.

Breyer was touted for his bipartisan approach to his decisions, writing in a 2021 book that “if the public comes to see judges as merely ‘politicians in robes,’” then “its confidence in the courts, and in the rule of law itself, can only decline.”

“For virtually his entire adult life, including a quarter center on the US Supreme Court, Stephen Breyer has served his country with the highest possible distinction,” US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said. “He embodies the best qualities and highest ideals of American justice: knowledge, wisdom, fairness, humility, restraint.” 

According to reports, many believe that Biden could eye Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, a former Breyer clerk who was recently confirmed to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, and Leondra Kruger, who was the assistant to the solicitor general under President Barack Obama.

"President Biden's nominee will receive a prompt hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee," Schumer added," and will be considered and confirmed by the full United States Senate with all deliberate speed." 

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