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26 Jan, 2022 18:14

Liberal justice Stephen Breyer to retire from Supreme Court

Stephen Breyer will step down, giving President Biden a shot at appointing another liberal judge
Liberal justice Stephen Breyer to retire from Supreme Court

Justice Stephen Breyer will retire at the end of the Supreme Court’s current term, it's been confirmed. Should President Joe Biden appoint a successor before November’s midterm elections, he will likely be able to replace Breyer with another liberal justice and avoid changing the balance of the court.

At 83, Breyer is the Supreme Court’s oldest justice, and has been urged by liberals for some time now to retire while Biden holds the White House and Democrats hold both houses of Congress. Citing “people familiar with his thinking,” NBC reported on Wednesday that Breyer will step down when the court’s current term ends in October, with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer confirming the news shortly afterwards.

Come Breyer's retirement, Biden will be under pressure to appoint a replacement immediately, lest the balance of power in Congress change following November’s midterm elections. A Republican-held Senate would be under the control of Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell, who in 2016 famously prevented Barack Obama from appointing now-Attorney General Merrick Garland to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the bench.

In a statement confirming the retirement, Schumer said Biden's nominee “will receive a prompt hearing" in the Senate and be confirmed “with all deliberate speed." 

It is unclear who Biden plans on replacing Breyer with, although he did say in 2020 that he was “looking forward to making sure there’s a black woman on the Supreme Court to make sure we in fact get everyone represented." 

The nation’s highest court is currently split 6-3, with conservative or conservative-leaning judges in the majority.