Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer has announced his plans to retire when the court’s current term ends this summer.
The move allows President Joe Biden to select his successor. Biden is expected to act quickly in an attempt to have Breyer’s successor confirmed before the court’s next term begins on October 3.
Breyer, 83, was the oldest member of the court. Though he has been a consistent vote for the liberal wing of the court since being nominated by former President Bill Clinton in 1994, he warned against politicization of the Supreme Court.
“It is wrong to think of the court as another political institution,” Breyer told an audience at Harvard Law School in 2021. “It is doubly wrong to think of its members as junior league politicians.”
“If the public sees judges as ‘politicians in robes,’ its confidence in the courts, and in the rule of law itself, can only diminish, diminishing the court’s power, including its power to act as a ‘check’ on the other branches,” Breyer warned.
Speculation of Breyer’s retirement has been ongoing since Biden was inaugurated, as it affords the president the opportunity to nominate another liberal judge.
“It has always been the decision of any Supreme Court Justice if and when they decide to retire, and how they want to announce it, and that remains the case today,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Twitter.
“We have no additional details or information to share from [the White House],” she tweeted.
Whomever President Biden selects as Breyer’s replacement will very likely be approved. With the Senate split 50-50 among the two parties, Vice President Kamala Harris would have the tie-breaking vote.
During Biden’s campaign for president, he vowed to select a black woman if given the opportunity to choose a Supreme Court Justice.
One potential justice gaining popularity on social media is D.C. Circuit Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. She once worked as a law clerk for Breyer and was chosen just last year by Biden to serve on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Jackson, 51, also worked as an assistant federal public defender and served on the U.S. Sentencing Commission.
Whoever is confirmed as a replacement will not sway the court’s leaning. Currently, the court comprises six justices nominated by Republican presidents and three justices appointed by Democrat presidents.
Breyer’s announcement of his retirement comes as the Conservatives on the court have flexed their advantage in recent weeks. The court overturned Biden’s large business vaccine mandate and allowed Texas’s six-week abortion ban to stand. Breyer dissented in both rulings.