Justice Stephen Breyer Retires

Justice Stephen Breyer Retires

Vedh Vinayak and Tyler Suwankosai

The oldest sitting member of the Supreme Court has just announced his retirement. Justice Stephen Breyer has served 27 years as part of the Supreme Court. He was appointed in 1994 by Bill Clinton and is known as the most pragmatic Justice. Instead of demanding a strict interpretation of the Constitution, he focuses more on real-life consequences of a case. He is also one of the three liberal Justices remaining in the Court and the oldest Justice. Finally, he is most known for authoring significant majority opinions against anti-abortion laws in Nebraska and Louisiana. 

According to the Constitution, Supreme Court Justice “shall hold their Offices during good behavior.” However, good behavior is not defined in the Constitution and the current interpretation is that Supreme Court Justices cannot be removed from office by Congress. This means that Supreme Court Justices can serve as long as they wish. However, a Supreme Court Justice could be impeached. But there has only been one Supreme Court Justice impeachment case in America’s history. Samuel Chase was impeached in 1805. A strong advocate was President Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson hoped to reduce Federalist influence in the court. Chase’s actions were accused of making politically biased decisions in the court and was impeached. 

In Justice Breyer’s case, he has chosen to retire from his duties. In an interview with New York Times in August 2021, Breyer had said that he wanted to retire before his death. It has been reported that the 83 year-old was pressured to retire by Democratic Congress members so that President Biden could nominate a younger liberal justice. He announced his retirement along with President Biden on January 27, 2022.

With Stephen Breyer gone, Joe Biden will finally be able to name a new justice. During his campaign, he made a pledge to put a Black woman on the Supreme Court. Though at the time it was mainly to revive his campaign, he is now ready to fulfill the promise. His main candidate is Judge Kentanji Brown Jackson, a black woman. She clerked under Justice Breyer during his 1999-2000 term and before, attended Harvard and Harvard Law School. Now, she’s spent eight and a half years on the Federal District Court bench, working on numerous cases some of which attracted political attention. 

Justice Breyer will be remembered for his 27 years of service and all the contributions he made to our country. Hopefully our new Justice follows in his footsteps!