Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer is planning to retire after serving nearly three decades on the bench, a source familiar with the matter told CNN Wednesday. Breyer’s decision will give President Joe Biden a chance to pick his replacement and fill a Supreme Court vacancy.
The 83-year-old justice is expected to remain on the court until the end of this term. Appointed by former President Bill Clinton, Breyer is one of three liberal justices on the Supreme Court, in addition to Obama appointees Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki tweeted on Wednesday, “It has always been the decision of any Supreme Court Justice if and when they decide to retire, and how they want to announce it, and that remains the case today. We have no additional details or information to share from @WhiteHouse.”
In August 2021, Breyer told The New York Times that he was considering retiring from the court and asserted that “there are many things that go into a retirement decision.”
Recalling remarks made by the late Justice Antonin Scalia, Breyer implied his replacement was a key factor in his decision to retire.
“He said, ‘I don’t want somebody appointed who will just reverse everything I’ve done for the last 25 years,’” Breyer said of Justice Scalia, adding “that will inevitably be in the psychology” of his decision.
“I don’t think I’m going to stay there till I die — hope not,” he said.
Breyer has also spoken against expanding the court, warning to do so could jeopardize public faith in the law.
“Think twice, at least,” Breyer said of expanding the court. “If A can do it, B can do it. And what are you going to have when you have A and B doing it?”
“Nobody really knows, but there’s a risk, and how big a risk do you want to take?” he continued. “Why do we care about the rule of law? Because the law is one weapon — not the only weapon — but one weapon against tyranny, autocracy, irrationality.”
President Joe Biden has previously vowed to appoint a black woman to the court should a vacancy occur while he is in office.
“It is wrong to think of the court as another political institution,” Breyer said at Harvard Law School last year. “It is doubly wrong to think of its members as junior league politicians.”
“If the public sees judges as ‘politicians in robes, its confidence in the courts, and in the rule of law itself, can only diminish, diminishing the court’s power, including its power to act as a ‘check’ on the other branches,” he warned.