Supreme Court Justice Stephen Brier will retire, creating the opening of the nine-member US Supreme Court, according to US media reports.
Judge Breyer’s 83-year-old decision to retire gives President Joe Biden the opportunity to appoint a successor who can serve for decades. Biden has promised to nominate a black woman to court, the first in US history.
Breyer’s retirement was first announced by NBC News, CNN and the Associated Press, citing unnamed sources on Wednesday. Sources spoke on condition of anonymity so as not to prevent Breyer’s statement, according to the AP.
“There was no report of Judge Brier,” Biden told reporters at the White House on Wednesday.
“Let him do what he wants to do and I’m glad to talk about it later.”
Breyer’s retirement would be politically significant in the United States, as there are growing fears among Democrats and Liberals that the court – which now has a 6-3 conservative majority – is ready to reverse major US court precedents.
Biden’s fellow Democrats have a razor-sharp majority in the Senate, which is constitutionally required to confirm Supreme Court nominations. If Republicans regain control of the Senate in the November election, it could prevent Biden from calling for new justice.
“We are so polarized,” Douglas Lakecock, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Virginia, told Al Jazeera. “This must mean that the conservative super-majority is not growing … President Biden is being appointed. So in terms of balance, 6-3 is better. ”
The Biden nominee will not change the ideological balance of the court, but will allow the Democrat president to refresh his liberal wing with a younger lawyer for life.
Since joining the court in 1994, Breyer has been a pragmatic force in the court, which has become increasingly conservative in recent years, trying to build a majority with more moderate judges on the right and left.
Breyer is the author of important decisions defending abortion rights and access to health care, helped promote LGBTQ rights and questioned the constitutionality of the death penalty, but often disagreed with the right court.
“His work and his decisions as an associate judge on the biggest issues of our time – including voting rights, the environment, women’s reproductive freedom and more recently, health care and the Affordable Care Act – have been extremely consistent,” said the majority leader. Senate Chuck Schumer, who promised immediate action against any Biden nominee.
“President Biden’s nominee will receive an immediate hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee and will be reviewed and confirmed by the entire United States Senate at full deliberate speed,” Schumer said.
Biden’s potential nominations include Ketanji Brown Jackson, a former Brier lawyer who was confirmed by the Senate last June to serve on an influential U.S. appeals court, and Leondra Krueger, who serves on the California Supreme Court, according to Reuters.
Sherilyn Afil, head of the legal operation of the NAACP civil rights group, was also touted as a potential candidate for Biden.
The current nine-month term of the court began in October and there is growing confidence in its conservative majority. Solutions are expected by the end of June that could reduce abortion rights and expand gun rights.
Earlier this week, judges launched a case that needs to be decided in their next term, which could doom university policies, given the admission race to add more blacks and Spaniards to their student population. Conservatives oppose such programs for positive action.
Breyer was appointed by President Bill Clinton, a Democrat. Along with the late Judge Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Breyer chose not to step down the last time Democrats controlled the White House and the Senate – during Barack Obama’s presidency.
Liberal activists are now eager to avoid a repeat of what happened when Trump succeeded in replacing Ginzburg by expanding the Conservative majority in court.
Ginsberg died in September 2020, allowing then-President Donald Trump to fill his vacancy with Conservative Judge Amy Connie Barrett.
In addition to Barrett, Trump named conservative lawyers Brett Cavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch in court during his four-year presidency.