U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyerthe panel's oldest memberplans to retire, giving President Joe Biden his first opportunity to nominate a member of the nation's top court.
Breyer, 83, informed the president last week of his intention to retire and indicated he would follow up with an official letter, according to Politico.
Breyer's move comes after more than a year of pressure from liberal legal activists who urged the appointee of President Bill Clinton to step aside to give Biden a chance to name a jurist who could shape the country's legal landscape for decades. Biden has pledged to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court. Many Democratic lawmakers immediately urged Biden to pick 51-year-old D.C. Circuit Judge Ketanji Brown Jacksona Harvard Law School graduate who clerked for Breyer.
Republicans have no obvious mechanism to block a Biden nominee amid the erosion of filibuster rules for judicial nominees in the Senate.
Various organizations weighed in on Breyer's decision and legacy. ACLU National Legal Director David Cole issued the following statement: "Justice Breyer has long been a voice and a vote for civil liberties, human dignity, the right to vote, and good governance. In the best tradition of a justice, he has paid careful attention to the implications of the court's rulings for ordinary people and for the administration of justice. From protecting abortion rights to indicting the death penalty to safeguarding free speech and civil rights, Justice Breyer has demonstrated his commitment to the Constitution's highest ideals. Justice Breyer hasn't always ruled for us, but he has always earned our respect.
"The next justice will help determine the course of our nation's future, and in particular, the freedoms and rights of its people. We call on the president and the Congress to appoint a nominee who will respect and defend the Constitution, the fundamental institutions of our democracy, and the rights of the most vulnerable among us."
Lambda Legal Chief Strategy Officer and Legal Director Sharon McGowan said, "During his nearly three decades on the Court, Justice Breyer has been a reliable defender of the civil rights of LGBTQ+ people, having helped secure majority decisions in the Supreme Court's five landmark LGBTQ+ rulingsRomer v. Evans, Lawrence v. Texas, U.S. v. Windsor, Obergefell v. Hodges, and most recently, Bostock v. Clayton County.
"We strongly urge President Biden to select a nominee whose commitment to equal justice under law is beyond question, and whose record demonstrates their understanding that LGBTQ+ people are entitled to the full protection of the Constitution's guarantees of equality and liberty. We also note that this retirement presents President Biden with a historic opportunity to address the fact that, for too long, our Supreme Court has not adequately reflected the diversity of the legal profession or our country as a whole."
Catholics for Choice President Jamie L. Manson said in a separate statement, "We are grateful for Justice Breyer's 27 years on the Supreme Courtespecially authoring landmark abortion rights decisions including Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, which struck down medically unnecessary restrictions in Texas, and June Medical Services v. Russo, which reaffirmed Whole Woman's Health and protected access for Louisianans. And perhaps most importantly, we are grateful that Justice Breyer knew when to retire in order to prevent the Supreme Court from sliding further into right-wing extremism.
Like McGowan and Cole, Manson weighed in on the future of the court: "There are currently [six] of [nine] Supreme Court justices who are Catholic (and one additional justice who was raised Catholic). Rather than fill the Court with more of the same, Catholics for Choice calls on President Joe Biden to nominate a justice who reflects the diversity of this country. We are mindful of his campaign promise to nominate the first Black woman to the Supreme Court. And we trust that President Biden's decision will be grounded in principles of justice, equality, and religious freedom."
"We urge President Biden to make history and appoint a Black LGBTQ woman to the U.S. Supreme Court," LGBTQ Victory Institute Executive Director Ruben Gonzales also said. "With his previous commitment to nominate a Black woman, President Biden affirmed the important role diverse perspectives have on the bench and on the health of our democracy and society. There is a powerful pipeline of Black LGBTQ judges, officials and leaders who are more than qualified to fulfill this promise."