Breyer Retires Before the Democratic Senate Expires

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer is retiring after nearly 28 years on the bench.


Stephen Breyer, the oldest currently serving Supreme Court Justice, is retiring this spring at age 83. Bill Clinton appointed Breyer, the senior member of the court’s liberal wing, in 1994.

  • This will be the first time in history a Supreme Court nomination goes before a 50-50 Senate. Vice President Kamala Harris can break the tie if no Republicans vote to confirm the nominee.
  • Democrats plan to quickly confirm Breyer’s successor, who would likely take office sometime this summer after the Supreme Court term ends in June.
  • Breyer’s retirement gives President Joe Biden his first Supreme Court appointment. Biden promised on the campaign trail to nominate the first black woman Supreme Court Justice.
  • Biden’s shortlist is thought to include:
    • Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit (age 51)
    • Associate Justice Leondra Kruger of the California Supreme Court (age 45)
    • Judge J. Michelle Childs of the US District Court for South Carolina (age 55)


reporting from the left side of the aisle


  • The Washington Post covered the response of left- and right-wing activists to the Breyer retirement announcement.
  • The New York Times examined the potential nominees Biden could consider to replace Breyer.
  • Vox wrote an explainer summarizing Breyer’s 28 years on the high court and some of his most notable decisions and dissents.



  • Charles C. W. Cooke wrote about how Breyer’s retirement may not be all bad news for conservatives for National Review.
  • The Wall Street Journal assessed the political opportunities and risks for Democrats in the coming confirmation battle.
  • The fellas on the Ruthless Podcast offered a humorous take on the Breyer news, the rumors that Kamala Harris might get shunted off to the Supreme Court, and escaped monkeys in Pennsylvania.

Author’s Take

Justice Breyer was a consistent member of the court’s liberal wing. Although, he along with Justice Elena Kagan were more likely to join the conservative-leaning Justices on some controversial cases in than Ruth Bader Ginsburg or Sonia Sotomayor were in recent years.

It seems likely his replacement will be more liberal leaning than he is. Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is the frontrunner and seems more in the mold of Justice Sotomayor at first glance. California Justice Leondra Kruger has more of a moderate reputation along the lines of Justice Kagan.

I would recommend watching this discussion between Justice Breyer and the late Justice Antonin Scalia to get a better sense of the man and his views on the law. It’s a wonderful conversation and a respectful back-and-forth between two brilliant men with vastly different viewpoints.

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© Dominic Moore, 2022