A PYMNTS Company

Justice Stephen Breyer Announces His Retirement

 |  January 27, 2022

On Thursday, January 27, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer formally announced that he will retire at the end of the current term. (The Supreme Court term begins on the first Monday in October and lasts until the October of the following year, with a recess in late June or early July.) He served more than 27 years on the court.

At 83 years old, Breyer is the oldest Supreme Court justice and one of the three liberal justices, alongside Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. He was nominated and appointed by former President Bill Clinton, and joined the court in 1994. Over the course of his tenure as justice, he was known for his “pragmatism, optimism, and cooperation with both political parties.”

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki tweeted on Wednesday, “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.”

Breyer’s retirement paves the way for President Biden to nominate his replacement. It might be the only seat he’ll fill during his presidency, but if Republicans reclaim the Senate in this year’s midterm elections, Biden might be blocked from filling it at all. The Senate votes to confirm the president’s nominee; so if Republicans regain the majority, they are unlikely to confirm any Biden nomination.

On the campaign trail, Biden promised to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court, and during a press conference on Thursday, he confirmed this pledge.

“Our process is going to be rigorous,” Mr. Biden said. “I will select a nominee worthy of Justice Breyer’s legacy of excellence and decency. While I’ve been studying candidates’ backgrounds and writings, I have made no decision except one. The person I will nominate will be someone with extraordinary qualifications, character, experience and integrity. And that person will be the first Black woman ever nominated to the United States Supreme Court. It’s long overdue, in my view. I made that commitment during the campaign for president, and I will keep that commitment.”

After Mr. Biden’s remarks, Breyer spoke to the complexities, differences and nuances of the American people, and shared what he’s taught his students. It’s “kind of a miracle” to see people so different who have “decided to help solve their major differences under law,” he said. Still, he said future generations will determine whether the experiment of America continues.

Want more news? Subscribe to CPI’s free daily newsletter for more headlines and updates on antitrust developments around the world.