Supreme Court Justice Breyer Is Retiring—Here’s What That Means And Who Might Replace Him

By Gina Florio··  2 min read
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Justice Breyer Alamy

The news came in this afternoon: Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer is planning to retire.

NBC News first reported on the matter, citing “people familiar with his thinking.” This has yet to be confirmed by Justice Breyer himself, but the White House is already talking about his potential replacement.

Who Is Justice Breyer?

Justice Breyer has been on the Supreme Court for more than 27 years and was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1994. His nomination process was overseen by now-President Joe Biden who was the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time. Justice Breyer is one of the three liberal justices on the current Supreme Court, including Sonia Sotomayer and Elena Kagan. 

The news of Breyer’s retirement has blown the door open on the conversation of who will replace him. The remaining six Justices are more conservative in their rulings, so all eyes are on President Joe Biden to replace Breyer with someone who will maintain his generally liberal position. The timing is particularly delicate because Breyer’s retirement arrives around the time when the justices will decide if Roe v. Wade will be overturned. Breyer would very likely write the dissent and advocate for Roe v. Wade to still stand.

Who Might Replace Justice Breyer?

The White House has hinted that President Biden is planning to nominate the first black woman to replace Breyer. “The President has stated and reiterated his commitment of nominating a black woman to the Supreme Court and certainly stands by that,” Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, told reporters during a briefing. 

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s name is in the mix. She is currently serving as a circuit judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Brown Jackson, 51, was a former clerk for Breyer and was nominated to her previous position on the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia by former President Barack Obama in 2013. 

It’s too soon to say who the nominee will be, but it’s certainly safe to say that all eyes are on this soon-to-be empty Supreme Court Justice seat. 

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