US Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer reportedly to retire
US Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer speaks at Brookings, Jan. 21, 2016. / Paul Morigi/Brookings Institution via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 26, 2022 / 11:07 am (CNA).
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer will be retiring from the court, NBC News reported on Wednesday, Jan. 26. The network cited “people familiar with the decision” in its reporting.
Breyer, who at 83 is the Supreme Court’s oldest member, was appointed to the bench in 1994 by President Bill Clinton (D). He has served for 27 years.
Details on when exactly the associate justice will be retiring were not announced.
The White House did not confirm or deny the reports that Breyer would soon be announcing his retirement. Shortly after NBC’s story was published, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki tweeted, “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.”
Paski added that the White House had “no additional details or information to share” at the time. CNN reported that Breyer could formally announce his retirement as early as Jan. 27.
A member of the liberal wing, Breyer has consistently supported abortion rights throughout his time on the court.
In 2000, Breyer authored the decision in Stenberg v. Carhart, which found that Nebraska’s law banning partial-birth abortions was unconstitutional as it did not have an exception to preserve the health of the mother. In Hill v. Colorado, which was decided one day before Stenberg v. Carhart, Breyer joined with the majority in upholding a Colorado law prohibiting protests outside of abortion clinics.
If Breyer were to retire, it is a near-certainty that President Joe Biden (D) would appoint someone of a similar ideology to the Supreme Court. This is Biden’s first chance to appoint a justice to the court.
Due to Breyer’s age, calls for his retirement have been increasing since Biden’s election, to avoid a repeat of what happened when Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died in September 2020.
In 2020, shortly before the presidential election, Ginsburg, who was considered to be on the court’s liberal wing, died after a battle with cancer. President Donald Trump (R) then appointed Justice Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative, to the Supreme Court, shifting the balance of the court.
The Supreme Court’s new term begins on Oct. 3, just under one month before the midterm elections. As the Senate could change hands with these elections, it is likely that Biden would seek to confirm a new member to the Supreme Court before that date.
According to CNN, Breyer wishes to remain on the court until a new member is confirmed to replace him.
Speculation about who would replace Breyer began as soon as rumors began swirling that his retirement was imminent.
Biden pledged multiple times in 2020 to appoint a Black woman to the court, saying in June that, “We are putting together a list of African American women who are qualified and have the experience to be on the court,” and that he would not be releasing that list until they are vetted.