US Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer formally announces retirement

Christine Rousselle   By Christine Rousselle for CNA

 

US Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer announces his retirement in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, in Washington, DC, Jan. 27, 2022. / Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Washington D.C., Jan 27, 2022 / 11:32 am (CNA).

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer formally announced his upcoming retirement from the Supreme Court on Thursday, one day after his plans were leaked by NBC News.

“I am writing to tell you that I have decided to retire from regular active judicial service as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States,” said a Jan. 27 letter from Breyer to President Joe Biden (D).

Breyer said that his resignation would go into effect when the Supreme Court enters its summer recess, “assuming that by then my successor has been nominated and confirmed.”

At 83, Breyer is the oldest justice on the Supreme Court. He was appointed to the bench in 1994 by President Bill Clinton (D).

“I enormously appreciate the privilege of serving as part of the federal judicial system – nearly 14 years as a Court of Appeals judge and nearly 28 years as a Member of the Supreme Court,” wrote Breyer. He said that he found judicial work to be “challenging and meaningful” and that he had “warm and friendly” relationships with his colleagues.

“Throughout, I have been aware of the great honor of participating as a judge in the effort to maintain our Constitution and the rule of law,” said Breyer.

Biden and Breyer made a joint appearance on Thursday afternoon to discuss the justice’s retirement announcement.

The president praised Breyer for his “remarkable career of public service, and his clear-eyed commitment to making our country’s laws work for its people.”

Breyer, added Biden, was a “model public servant in a time of great division” and he “patiently sought common ground” during his time on the Supreme Court.

With Breyer’s retirement, Biden is set to make his first nomination to the Supreme Court. In his appearance on Thursday, Biden reaffirmed his campaign pledge to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court.

“I will nominate someone with extraordinary qualifications, charity, experience and integrity,” said Biden. “And that person will be the first Black woman ever nominated to the United States Supreme Court.”

Biden added that he did not have a specific person in mind for whom he was going to nominate, but said that he would work with both Democratic and Republican members of the Senate while deciding who he would put forward.

The nomination will come “before the end of February,” said the president.

A member of the liberal wing of the Supreme Court, 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.

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.


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