DES MOINES, Iowa – Associate Justice Stephen G. Breyer, 83, officially announced his retirement on Thursday after serving on U.S. Supreme Court since 1994.
In a letter sent to President Joe Biden, Breyer said he plans to retire after the Supreme Court recesses in summer, typically in late June or early July.
“I enormously appreciate the privilege of as part of the federal judicial system – nearly 14 years as a Court of Appeals Judge and nearly 28 years as a member of the Supreme Court. I have found the work challenging and meaningful. My relationship with each of my colleagues have been warm and friendly. Throughout I have been aware of the great honor of participating as a judge in the effort to maintain our Constitution and rule of law,” he wrote.
Breyer was appointed by President Bill Clinton. His retirement provides President Joe Biden an opportunity to nominate his first Supreme Court justice.
U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, congratulated the justice on his years of service.
“I congratulate Justice Breyer on his long, distinguished service to our country. He is widely respected for good reason, and I’ve personally held him in high esteem throughout his service on the court,” he said in a released statement.
As the second-longest serving member of the U.S. Senate, Grassley, 88, has participated in the confirmation of every sitting Supreme Court Justice. When he was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he led the confirmation hearings for Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh who were appointed by former President Donald Trump.
Biden renewed his pledge to place a black woman on the Supreme Court to replace Breyer who is identified as a member of the left-wing of the court. “It’s long overdue,” the president said, adding, “I will nominate a historic candidate, someone who is worthy of Justice Breyer’s legacy.”
Grassley warned that Biden should appoint someone who is part of the “legal mainstream.”
“I supported (Breyer’s) confirmation to the Supreme Court in 1994 alongside a vast majority of my colleagues. Justice Breyer’s successor should be an individual within the legal mainstream who can receive similar broad, bipartisan support. Such a candidate will preserve faith in the court, and reflect Americans’ will when they elected an evenly divided Senate,” he stated.
Whoever Biden appoints will likely face a major confirmation battle unless it is someone who can unify the Democratic caucus. U.S. Senators Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Krysten Sinema, D-Ariz., have opposed Democratic attempts to pass a massive social spending bill and election reform legislation supported by the far left wing of the Democratic Party. With Republicans eliminating the filibuster for Supreme Court justices following Senate Democrats ending the filibuster for lower court nominations, his appointee will only need a simple majority, not 60-vote majority to be confirmed.