Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer announces retirement

After more than a year of speculation, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer has announced that he will retire from the court at the end of the current term in early summer, giving President Joe Biden a vacancy to fill while he still has a Democrat majority in the Senate, according to The Hill.

Breyer, 83, has been under intense pressure to retire since Biden was elected because of the slim majority in the Senate. With complete Democrat agreement and a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Kamala Harris, the Senate can confirm a Biden nominee without any Republican votes.

The White House said it would not comment on Breyer’s retirement right now. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki tweeted about the announcement: “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. We have no additional details or information to share from @WhiteHouse.”

Senate Democrat Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said he would quickly vote on a replacement for Breyer.

Breyer avoiding future conservative replacement

Democrats have been worried about Breyer’s retirement ever since Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died at age 87 while still on the bench, after a battle with cancer.

Should Breyer have stayed on the court beyond 2024 and a Republican became president or the Senate switched back to Republican hands, it would have been entirely possible that another conservative judge might have been appointed if Breyer died while still on the bench, rather than another liberal like Breyer.

“I’m sure Breyer realizes what a blow Justice Ginsburg’s non-retirement was to the possibility of ever having an even mildly progressive Court in our lifetime,” Dan Kobil, a law professor at Capital University law professor Dan Kobil said in a previous interview.

The announcement came as a surprise to some, however, who saw how Breyer enjoyed his job on the court.

Biden pledged to appoint Black woman to court

Biden pledged during his presidential campaign in 2020 to appoint a Black woman to the Supreme Court if a vacancy presented itself. Some have mentioned D.C. Circuit Judge Kentanji Brown Jackson as a possible appointment after Biden appointed her last year to the federal appeals court.

Republicans plan to put up a fight against Biden’s nominee, even though they likely won’t win unless the nominee is unusually liberal and progressive, or has an objectionable past.

“The Left bullied Justice Breyer into retirement and now it will demand a justice who rubber stamps its liberal political agenda,” Judicial Crisis Network President Carrie Severino tweeted. “And that’s what the Democrats will give them because they’re beholden to the dark money supporters who helped elect them.”

Even if Biden manages to get a progressive liberal on the bench in Breyer’s place, however, the court’s composition still leans solidly conservative as it considers major abortion and gun rights cases.

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