The Retirement of Stephen Breyer


Max Nordquist

The Biden Administration has a chance to appoint another new liberal justice.

On January 27, Justice Stephen Breyer announced his retirement from his role as a supreme court justice at the end of the 2021-22 term.

Justice Breyer has served on the court for over 27 years, and since the loss of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the appointment of Amy Coney Barret, Breyer has been one of the three liberal justices on the court. In addition to being one of three liberal justices, he is the oldest serving Justice at 83 years old.

He hasn’t given any specific reasoning for his retirement. In an interview with NPR he said, “[the decision of when to retire] has many complex parts to it. I think I am aware of most of them and will consider them.” (Totenburg). However, since last year, liberal organizations have urged Breyer to retire in order to prevent the same situation that happened with former Justice Ginsburg.

Ginsburg’s decision to remain on the court throughout Obama’s last term, despite her age and knowledge of health conditions, added to the republican domination of the supreme court.  Before Ginsburg’s death in September of 2020, the republican-democrat split on the court was 5-4 respectively. Now, after the passing of two and retirement of one, the split on the court is 6-3.     

Former President Trump appointed 3 of the 6 republicans. So, in order to prevent a republican administration from appointing another justice when Breyer dies, liberal democrats have advocated for Bryre to retire while the Biden administration is still serving. This way the democrats are able to keep the current split as well as appoint a judge that can serve for the next 4 decades.

During his campaign, Biden promised if he got the opportunity to appoint a justice he would appoint an African American woman. According to his press secretary Jen Psaki, Biden is committed to standing by that promise.

Two names have been circling the white house for Breyer’s replacement. Leondra Kruger and Ketanji Brown Jackson. Kruger (45) served on the California Supreme Court as well as served for republican and democratic administrations. Jackson (51) is a DC district attorney, and she was on Obama’s list of options for his appointment in 2016. Both women are young and would be able to serve for many more decades than Bryer. 

At age 83 Bryer doesn’t have many years left to serve. Because of this, Liberals are desperate to keep the Republican majority as slim as possible. 

Totenberg, Nina. “Justice Stephen Breyer, an Influential Liberal on the Supreme Court, to Retire.” NPR, NPR, 26 Jan. 2022,