Supreme Court

What Happens Now? Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer to Retire

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Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, a San Francisco native, is retiring after spending 27 years on the bench.

Breyer's retirement now gives President Joe Biden his first opportunity to nominate someone to serve on the high court, and Biden's party currently controls the Senate.

Breyer's brother, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer, said the timing was important.

"He wanted to make sure that the Senate and the president had enough time to confirm someone who could take that seat effective at the end of the term in June," Charles Breyer said.

Charles Breyer said his brother's hope is that the business of the Supreme Court will not be interrupted by a delayed vacancy on the bench.

Democratic Senate leaders have already voiced an intention for a prompt confirmation once Biden announces his pick.

During his campaign in 2020, Biden made a very specific pledge about any nominee.

"I commit that if I'm elected president and have an opportunity to appoint someone to the courts, I'll appoint the first Black woman to the courts," he said. "It's required that they have representation now. It's long overdue."

Among those mentioned as potential replacements are federal D.C. appeals court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who was recently nominated and confirmed, and California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger.

Whomever takes the seat will follow a justice who often sought consensus behind the scenes.

Clerks who served with Stephen Breyer were often given instructions based on advice he often got on one of his first jobs with former Sen. Ted Kennedy.

"When we were working on an opinion and there was an issue we were trying to hash out with other chambers, he would say that same phrase to us: 'Work it out. Go work it out,'" U.S. Appeals Attorney Aileen McGrath said.

Now that Stephen Breyer has announced his retirement, his brother is hoping to see him more.

"I'm delighted from a family point of view that now he'll be able to spend more time with family and doing some other things," Charles Breyer said.

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