Supreme Court Justice Breyer’s Retirement Paves Way for Biden Appointment

Supreme Court
Courtesy of Army National Guard (Picryl PDM)

One of the three liberal Supreme Court of the United States Justices will be retiring at the end of the current session, a move that allows President Biden to submit his first SCOTUS nomination to Congress for approval. The nominee will be confirmed with deliberate efficiency, promises Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Supreme Court
Courtesy of Brookings Institution (Flickr CC0)

Stephen Breyer served his country with the highest possible distinction. He is, and always has been, a model jurist,” Senator Schumer said when discussing the justice’s retirement. “He embodies the best qualities and highest ideas of American justice: knowledge, wisdom, fairness, humility, [and] restraint,” he added.

With the opportunity to select a Supreme Court justice, the president will be able to keep his campaign promise to appoint the first Black woman to SCOTUS. There are five women on the president’s shortlist to possibly replace the 83-year-old justice who served over a decade defending the Constitution, reports Bloomberg. The potential Black women, in no particular order:

  • J. Michelle Childs, 55, Judge, U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina. Biden nominated her to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
  • Ketanji Brown Jackson, 51, Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. She served as a Federal Public Defender and a U.S. District Court Judge.
  • Leondra Kruger, 45, Associate Justice California Supreme Court. When she was in the Office of the Solicitor General, Kruger argued 12 cases at the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Sherrilyn Ifill, 59, President of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. She was appointed to the 2021 Biden Commission on Supreme Court.
  • Leslie Abrams Gardner, 47, Judge, U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia. Her sister is the voting rights advocate and a Democratic Party gubernatorial candidate for Georgia, Stacy Abrams.
Supreme Court
Courtesy of Gage Skidmore (Flickr CC0)

Since the court was established on September 24, 1789 — over 232 years  — until 1967, white men dominated the panel. In its history, only two Black men and five women were appointed to serve the people of the United States. Currently, there are six conservative and three liberal judges on the Supreme Court.

If Biden can keep his promise to appoint a Black woman, and Congress approves his candidate, the new Supreme Court Justice will be the third Black jurist, joining Thurgood Marshall (1967–1991) and Clarence Thomas (1991–present). She would also be the sixth female justice, joining Sandra Day O’Connor (1981–2005), Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1993–2020), the first Hispanic jurist, Sonia Sotomayor (2009–present), Elena Kagen (2010–present), and Amy Coney Barrett (2020—present).

The Supreme Court’s new term begins October 3. President Biden is expected to act quickly to nominate Bryer’s successor, according to NBC News.

Written by Cathy Milne-Ware


NPR: Justice Stephen Breyer, an influential liberal on the Supreme Court, to retire; by Nina Totenberg
NBC News: Justice Stephen Breyer to retire from Supreme Court, paving way for Biden appointment; by Pete Williams
The Washington Post: Opinion: Breyer’s act of listening will pave the way to a healthier democracy; by Neal Katyal
Bloomberg: Biden’s First Supreme Court Selection: The Leading Contenders; Kimberly Robinson, Greg Stohr, and Madison Alder
Axios: Schumer vows to confirm Breyer replacement “with all deliberate speed,” by Ivana Saric
SCOTUS: In Re Lady Lawyers: The Rise of Women Attorneys and the Supreme Court

Featured and Top Image by Capt. Joe Legros Courtesy of Picryl – Public Domain License
First Inset Image by Paul Morigi Courtesy of Brookings Institution’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Second Inset Image Courtesy of Gage Skidmore’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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