Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer will be retiring and stepping down from the Supreme Court at the end of the current term.
The 83-year-old Breyer is one of the three left-leaning judges on the court, allowing for President Joe Biden to safely put a like-minded person in his seat. Having learned from Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s failure to leave her post at a more convenient time for Democrats, activists have been urging Breyer to retire over fears that his age would cause him to retire or pass away at an inconvenient time and pushed for him to retire during a window where Democrats controlled everything from the White House to both branches of the Capitol.
As NBC News reported, this move was summarized in the Washington Post in May:
Prof. Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the law school at the University of California at Berkeley, wrote in a Washington Post op-ed in May urging Breyer to retire that there are times “when the stewards of our system must put the good of an institution they love, and of the country they love, above their own interests. They have to recognize that no one, not even a brilliant justice, is irreplaceable, and that the risks presented by remaining are more than hypothetical.”
Breyer’s departure at this time will, indeed, keep a leftist seat secure but it doesn’t tip the scales in their favor as former President Donald Trump was able to put in Niel Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett into their seats during his four years as President, tipping the court to the right.
Breyer believed in constructionism, believing that the interpretation of the Constitution should change with the times, a style that tends to differ from right-leaning judges who take a more textualist approach.
Biden has pledged to put a black woman on the court should he be given the chance to select someone, and he already has a candidate lined up in Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, a former law clerk of Breyer’s and was Merrick Garland’s replacement when he left to become Biden’s attorney general.