Analysis by WorldTribune Staff, January 27, 2022
One of the three remaining liberals on the Supreme Court and a caucasian male announced his retirement a day after it became top headline news nationwide.
Justice Stephen Breyer sent a letter dated Jan. 27 to Joe Biden and officially announced today that he will step down at the end of the current term.
But reports are saying that Breyer’s hand may have been forced by a White House that was desperate to change the news cycle.
When news leaked on Wednesday that Breyer planned to retire, the justice saw it as a violation of his practice of following protocol by the book, Washington Examiner columnist Paul Bedard noted, citing longtime court-watchers.
Sources said that Breyer planned to announce his retirement at the end of the current term in several months.
“He is a by-the-book stickler for following protocol. You announce your retirement at the end of terms, not in the middle,” one insider told Bedard. “He did not plan for this to leak out. He was just beginning the standard process of winding down.”
“Within hours of the leak, cable TV was showing an all-black slate of left-leaning female judges at the top of Biden’s list to replace Breyer,” Bedard noted.
Biden indeed confirmed on Thursday that he would be nominating a black woman to replace Breyer.
Leftists, who have for months called on Breyer to retire while Democrats hold both the White House and the Senate, immediately called on Biden to fulfill his promise of appointing a black woman to the high court.
“It is past time for a Black woman to be named to the Supreme Court,” Missouri Democrat Rep. Cori Bush tweeted.
New York Democrat Rep. Jamaal Bowman tweeted: “.@POTUS you promised us a Black woman on the Supreme Court. Let’s see it happen.”
Biden had said on June 30, 2021: “We are putting together a list of African American women who are qualified and have the experience to be on the court. I am not going to release that until we go further down the line in vetting them as well.”
Breyer’s decision to retire after more than 27 years on the court allows Biden to appoint a successor who could serve for several decades and to maintain the current 6-3 split between conservative and liberal justices.
Breyer was seen as the most moderate of the court’s three current liberal justices.
“The biggest choice facing his successor, and the liberal wing more generally, will be how much to seek common ground, such as narrower decisions on compromise grounds that leave no one 100% happy,” said William Jay, who leads the Supreme Court and appellate practice at Goodwin Procter LLP. “Justice Breyer was a true believer in that approach.”
At 83, Breyer is the court’s oldest member. He was appointed by President Bill Clinton.
Justice Breyer “spent his whole career in the minority on a high court that has leaned right for decades,” the Wall Street Journal’s Brent Kendall noted. “But until the past few years, the court had a broader center that at times gravitated toward middle-ground rulings. Liberal justices also built coalitions to preserve abortion rights and affirmative action and enshrine same-sex marriage as a constitutional right, even as conservatives held firm on rulings that expanded access to guns, allowed tighter voting rules and pared back campaign-finance restrictions.”