Georgia lawmakers caught off guard over news of Justice Breyer’s retirement

ATLANTA — U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer is expected to formally announce Thursday that he’s stepping down at the end of this term.

News of Breyer’s retirement has many wondering what impact this will have on Georgia cases moving up through the federal court system.

Channel 2′s Richard Elliot spoke with lawmakers at the State Capitol about the impending appointment of a new justice. A Georgia State law professor said that given the current makeup of the court, the new appointment probably won’t make that much of a difference.

News of Breyer’s sudden retirement took a lot of people by surprise.

Republican Rep. Charlice Byrd from Georgia saw the news right before she went into a judiciary committee meeting.

“First thing, it’s shocking when it came on my news feed,” Byrd said.

The U.S. Supreme Court could hear two, maybe three cases involving Georgia laws.

The heartbeat abortion law, the election integrity law and possibly a challenge to the newly redrawn district lines.

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“The bottom line is it’s still a six-three court. This doesn’t change,” said GSU law professor Eric Segall.

He points out that even with President Joe Biden nominating what will presumedly be a liberal justice, conservatives outnumber liberals six to three and that could have an impact on cases such as Georgia’s heartbeat abortion law.

“It’s not going to make a big difference anytime in the near future, because, as most people know, there are six very conservative justices on the court,” Segall said.

Democratic Sen. Nan Orrock from Georgia agrees.

Still, she worries Republicans will try to stall the appointment process the way they did for President Barrack Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland, who is now the U.S. Attorney General.

“The stakes are very high. It’s critically important and my advice to the public is, don’t to go to sleep on this one,” Orrock said.

There was no direct comment on Breyer’s retirement Wednesday from either of Georgia’s U.S. senators, Jon Ossoff or Raphael Warnock.

But Ossoff will sit on the committee that will decide on Biden’s supreme court nominee.

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