Justice Breyer’s Retirement


(Image courtesy of The Boston Globe)

Justice Breyer will retire, allowing Biden to choose the next Justice.

Avery Ngo

Justice Stephen G. Breyer, the court’s oldest member at age 83, will retire after serving 27 years on the Supreme Court. With this decision, it allows President Biden to name a Black woman to the court, one of the promises he made on the campaign trail. 

Breyer leaves behind the court as a moderate liberal who maintained that the court was meant to be apolitical, even writing the book, The Authority of the Court and the Peril of Politics, on the subject. This comes in the wake of a conservative leaning court, a court for which has increasingly come in disagreement in cases from immigration, Biden’s mandatory vaccination policy, and, most recently, abortion. 

Breyer has voted mostly with his liberal colleagues.  However, in cases like Maryland v. King in 2013 where the Court decided DNA samples taken from people arrested by police were legal, he sided with the conservatives. 

Previously, the time of Breyer’s retirement had left a future of uncertainty for the Supreme Court. Five Senate Republicans have said they will oppose any person nominated by the Biden Administration. With the midterms coming up in recent weeks, a Republican takeover in the Senate could potentially lead to any Biden appointee denied. The 50-50 margin of the Senate and the potential retirement of aging Senate Democrats could very well mean a Republican-dominated government. 

In order to prevent this, Democrats pushed for Breyer to announce his retirement before June, so the confirmation hearings will take place before the midterms.  However, Breyer’s insistence that the court should remain free from politics has worried them. 

Breyer’s decision to retire at this time has vast implications for the country’s future, ensuring a liberal justice in the Supreme Court. And his commitment to nonpartisan values leaves behind a legacy of compromise that stands stark against the increasingly divided court of the future.