Supreme Court Justice Breyer formally announces his retirement

Justice Stephen Breyer, photographed in 2015.
Justice Stephen Breyer, photographed in 2015.
Ariel Zambelich/NPR

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer formally announced his retirement Thursday. In a letter released by the court, Breyer said he intends to step down when the court begins its summer recess this year, "assuming that by then my successor has been nominated and confirmed."

He's set to appear with President Joe Biden at the White House.

You can watch the event live here:

News of Breyer's retirement leaked Wednesday. His decision was long sought by liberals to give President Biden the opportunity to nominate his first high court justice while Democrats control the Senate. During the campaign Biden pledged he would select a Black woman for the court.

In his letter to Biden, Breyer wrote that "I enormously appreciate the privilege of serving as part of the federal judicial system" and that he has found the work "challenging and meaningful."

"My relations with each of my colleagues have been warm and friendly. Throughout I have been aware of the great honor of participating as a judge in the effort to maintain our Constitution and the rule of law," he wrote.

NPR has reported that two leading contenders are federal Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who was also on President Obama's shortlist in 2016, and California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger — who was the assistant and then deputy solicitor general in both Democratic and Republican administrations before she was nominated to California's highest court. Both women are younger — Jackson is 51 and Kruger is 45 — giving either the opportunity, if chosen and confirmed, to serve for decades.

Breyer, nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1994, is, at 83, the court's oldest justice. Even if the Democratic majority in the Senate is able to confirm his successor, it will not change the conservative 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer promised Tuesday that "President Biden's nominee will receive a prompt hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, and will be considered and confirmed by the full United States Senate with all deliberate speed."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Your support matters.

You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.