United States Supreme Court Justice Stephen Brier has announced he will retire, giving President Joe Biden the opportunity to nominate a new lawyer to the country’s highest court.
In a letter to Biden on Thursday, the 83-year-old judge said his resignation would take effect at the end of the current term, usually in late June or early July, “assuming my successor has been nominated and confirmed by then”.
Breyer described his nearly 28 years on the bench as “challenging and meaningful” and said relations with his colleagues were “warm and friendly”.
Speaking at the White House on Thursday, Biden praised Breyer’s work as a “leading scientist” and called him “a model of a civil servant in a time of great division.”
The president reiterated a previous promise to nominate a black woman to the nine-member Supreme Court, the first in US history. Biden said he would announce a choice to replace Brier before the end of February.
“Our process will be rigorous, I will choose the nomination worthy of justice, Breyer’s legacy of excellence and decency,” Biden said.
The U.S. Supreme Court currently has a 6-3 conservative majority that hears cases involving major court precedents, including abortion, gun rights and religious freedom.
Replacing Breyer with a liberal lawyer – as Biden is almost certain he will – is unlikely to change the balance in court. However, this is ahead of the further shift to the right that liberal activists fear if Democrats lose to Republicans in the upcoming election.
Supreme Court justices serve lifelong appointments, and Breyer’s deputy is likely to serve for decades.
“Justice Brayer was a pretty credible vote on how you would expect a Democrat-appointed judge to vote on these issues, and we could expect someone nominated by Biden to vote the same way,” said Kelsey Brown Corkran, a Supreme Court Justice judge. Georgetown University Center.
“As such, Biden’s appointment will mean ‘probably very little’ to the court in terms of its overall results and direction,” Corcran told Reuters.
Abortion and gun cases will be decided before Breyer resigns at the end of his current term.
With regard to abortion, conservatives in court seem ready to undermine or even overturn the remarkable Roe v. Wade ruling of 1973, which legalized abortion in the United States. With regard to weapons, conservative judges seem ready to extend the right to carry firearms in public.
Earlier this week, the court launched a case to be decided in their next term, which could doom university policies, given the admission race to admit more black and Spanish-speaking students. Conservatives opposed such programs for positive action.
Biden’s potential nominees include Ketanji Brown Jackson, a former Brier lawyer who was confirmed by the Senate last June to serve on the influential U.S. Court of Appeals, and Leondra Krueger, who serves on the California Supreme Court. Sherilyn Afil, head of the legal team for the NAACP civil rights group, was also touted as a potential candidate for Biden.
Other black women on the list of potential candidates are; U.S. District Judge Juliana Michelle Childs, U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Candice Ray Jackson-Aquivumi and U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Eunice Cheryl Lee.
The new judge, if confirmed by the Senate, is likely to be on the bench for the next term of office in October, when he prepares to hear the case for admission to the university.
“The members of the conservative majority of six judges know what they think. A new voice on the other side is unlikely to make them rethink their views, “Carolyn Shapiro, a professor at the Chicago-Kent Law College who served as a lawyer for Breyer, told Reuters.
Former President Donald Trump has nominated three new conservative judges to court during his four-year term as president; Judges Neil Gorsuch, Brett Cavanaugh and Amy Connie Barrett.
Barrett replaced the late Liberal judge Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who died in 2020, shifting the court from a right-wing division of 5-4 to a firmly conservative 6-3.