After nearly three decades on the Supreme Court, Associate Justice Stephen Breyer plans to retire, according to multiple reports.
The 83-year-old’s decision was first reported Wednesday by NBC News, which cited “people familiar with his thinking.” Unidentified sources also confirmed Breyer’s decision to CNN, NPR and The Associated Press.
The announcement could come as soon as Thursday, although Breyer plans to remain on the bench until a new Supreme Court nominee is confirmed, according to CNN. White House officials did not immediately confirm the reports.
“It has always been the decision of any Supreme Court Justice if and when they decide to retire, and how they want to announce it, and that remains the case today,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement posted on social media. “We have no additional details or information to share from (the White House).”
President Joe Biden said told reporters he would have “more to say later” about Breyer’s retirement, adding that the liberal justice justice had yet to officially announce his decision.
“Let him make whatever statement he wants to make and I’m happy to talk about it later,” the president said.
Breyer’s retirement will give Biden his first chance to name a justice to the nation’s highest court. During the race for the White House in 2020, Biden said he planned to nominate a Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court if he was given the opportunity.
Among the people likely to be considered for the role are U.S. Circuit Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson and California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger, according to NPR. Civil rights lawyer Sherrilyn Ifill and U.S. District Judge J. Michelle Childs are also among the possible nominees, the AP reported.
In a statement obtained by Reuters, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., praised Breyer for his work on the Supreme Court and vowed that any nominee put forth by Biden “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.”
In a series of Twitter posts, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., noted that Democrats have enough votes to confirm Breyer’s replacement without Republican support.
“Elections have consequences, and that is most evident when it comes to fulfilling vacancies on the Supreme Court,” he wrote.
Breyer has served on the Supreme Court since he was appointed to the role by President Bill Clinton in 1994. Before that, he served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit after being appointed to the court in 1980 by President Jimmy Carter. He served as chief justice of the court from 1990 to 1994.
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