Skip to main content
Dateline newspaper cover banner
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer announced he will step down at the end of the Supreme Court’s current term.

Justice Stephen Breyer steps down from Supreme Court

By Sergio Presa Jr.

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer announced he will step down at the end of the Supreme Court’s current term. Breyer, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton, is one of the court’s liberal justices and sat on the Supreme Court for more than 27 years.

His retirement is going to allow President Biden to pick someone to fill his seat, which will also maintain the court’s current split between liberal and conservative justices.

Breyer, 83, is the court’s oldest justice. For months now, Breyer has been urged by liberal activists to step down before the midterm elections in November. The activists argued that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg sat on the court for too long and should have retired during the Obama administration. She stayed on the court until she died from cancer at 87. Her passing allowed former President Donald Trump to fill her seat with Justice Amy Coney Barret, which gave the court a more conservative edge.

On the presidential campaign trail, Biden promised to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court. After the announcement of Breyer’s retirement, there were calls for Biden to make good on his promise. One of the calls for Biden to fulfill his promise came from Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington.

“The court should reflect the diversity of our country, Murray said. “It is unacceptable that we have never in our nation’s history had a Black woman sit on the Supreme Court of the United States. I want to change that.”

Demand Justice, a progressive activist group, hired a truck to drive around Washington last year with a sign that read: “Breyer retire. It’s time for a Black woman Supreme Court justice.”

Dick Durbin of Illinois, who is also the Senate Majority Whip expressed agreement with the calls for Biden to follow through on his promise. Durbin said in a tweet that Biden has the chance to bring “diversity, experience and an evenhanded approach to the administration of justice.”

Two likely Biden picks include Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who was a former law clerk for Breyer, and Leondra Kruger, a California Supreme Court justice. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced that Biden’s pick for the court will “receive a prompt hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee.”

Some Biden supporters are calling for more court seats to be added to balance the conservative lean on the court. Breyer, however, said a move like that could undermine confidence in the court. He said advocates should “think long and hard before embodying those changes in law.”

Comments or feedback? Contact The Dateline Editor at editordatelinedowntown@gmail.com


Last updated 2/17/2022 4:50 AM