Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer will retire at the end of the Court’s current term, reports NBC News.
Justice Breyer’s retirement enables President Joe Biden to appoint his successor.
Having served on the Court as an associate justice for more than two decades, Breyer is the Supreme Court’s oldest member at 83 years old. Breyer was nominated to the Supreme Court in 1994 by former President Clinton.
In recent months, left-wing activists heavily scrutinized Breyer’s decision to remain on the bench, citing his age and opposition to court-packing.
In the spring of 2021, Brian Fallon, executive director of the progressive activist group Demand Justice, said, “We are now firmly in the window when past justices have announced their retirement, so it’s officially worrisome that Justice Breyer has not yet said that he will step down.”
They demanded his retirement so that President Biden could nominate a younger progressive liberal to take his spot in the country’s highest court. Progressives have been pushing for Biden to nominate more minorities to federal judgeships, hoping that the court system will move leftward with its increasing diversification.
Around the same time progressives began pushing for Breyer’s retirement, White House press secretary Jen Psaki stated that President Biden would not pressure him to resign his post.
She said, “[Biden] believes that’s a decision Justice Breyer will make when he decides it’s time to no longer serve on the Supreme Court.”
Many on the left bemoaned the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s refusal to retire — despite her prolonged illness — during Barack Obama’s presidency, leading to Donald Trump picking her successor after she passed away in the fall of 2020.
In a 2021 speech at Harvard Law School, Justice Breyer said that the Supreme Court’s authority is dependent on “a trust that the court is guided by legal principle, not politics” and that “structural alteration motivated by the perception of political influence can only feed that latter perception, further eroding trust.”
Breyer’s tenure with the Supreme Court is defined by his role in the liberal coalition alongside Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The White House is currently not providing any additional information on Breyer’s retirement but affirms that Breyer himself made the decision.
During a Democratic primary debate in the 2020 election, then-candidate Biden committed to nominating the first black woman to the Supreme Court.
In March 2021, White House press secretary Jen Psaki reaffirmed this commitment, stating that President Biden is “absolutely” committed to nominating an “African-American woman to the Supreme Court” should there be a vacancy.