Justice Stephen Breyer is Out: What’s Next?


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Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer’s retirement marks the first Supreme Court vacancy of Biden’s Presidency.

Audrey Smith, Writer

On January 26, long-time liberal Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer announced his retirement, ending his 28 year run on the court.

His retirement does not come as a shock, due to the many calls from the left for his term to come to an end. This move will allow President Biden to elect another liberal justice.

Many on the left did not want a repeat of former Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who did not retire during President Obama’s presidency. Because of this, Ginsburg died during President Trump’s term, which solidified a 6-3 conservative majority.

During his time on the court, Breyer was known to be cautious and pragmatic. He was nominated to the court in 1994 by President Clinton to replace retiring Justice Harry Blackmun. As a liberal justice, he defended abortion rights, wanted to abolish the death penalty, and protected free speech rights in schools.

On leaving the court, in a letter to Biden, Breyer wrote, “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.”

President Biden is expected to replace the justice with a black woman, fulfilling his campaign promise.

As quoted in CNN, Biden elaborated, “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.”

Biden believes this nomination is “long overdue” and will add more diverse perspectives to the court, another key part of his campaign promises.

Among the frontrunners for the vacant seat are Ketanji Brown Jackson, Leondra Kruger, and J. Michelle Childs.

Jackson is a current judge on the DC Circuit of the US Court of Appeals, while Childs has recently been nominated by Biden to the DC Circuit. Kruger is currently in her eighth year on the California Supreme Court.

The nomination process is suspected to begin during February. While Democrats hold a slim majority in the Senate (where confirmations take place), recent issues of not caucusing together may serve as delays to the nomination process.

Fortunately for Democrats, the filibuster will not stand as an issue for Supreme Court nominations due to Republicans’ actions during Neil Gorsuch’s hearing. GOP Senators lowered the threshold to confirm justices from 60 to 51, a move then Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called “nuclear.”

According to BBC News, however, another issue may arise. As reported by the outlet, “Recent analysis indicates non-white nominees often face much longer waits than their white counterparts to be confirmed by the mostly white chamber.”

Overall Biden nominating a liberal judge will not upset the current 6-3 conservative majority. Americans will have to wait and see how the court’s decisions play out, and whether the new nominee will make a difference.