In a letter to President Joe Biden Thursday, Justice Stephen Breyer formally informed of his decision to retire from the Supreme Court and noted that it would be effective at the end of the current term—late June or early July—assuming that his successor has been nominated and confirmed by that time.
Biden later gave a formal address from the Roosevelt Room announcing Justice Stephen Breyer’s retirement and pledged to begin the process of nominating his replacement. Calling it a “bittersweet day,” Biden commended Breyer for his “clear-eyed commitment to making our country’s laws work for its people.”
Following the president’s remarks, Breyer spoke about his time in public service and what he loves about working on the Court. Quoting his mother, he said, “It’s every race, it’s every religion and it’s every point of view possible.…It’s a kind of miracle. People that are so different in what they think, and yet they’ve decided to help solve their major differences under law.”
After working in all three branches of the government by age 40, Breyer was nominated to the Supreme Court by former President Bill Clinton in 1994. At 83 years of age, Breyer is currently the oldest Justice of the Supreme Court.
Biden, now responsible for nominating Breyer’s replacement, was the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time of his nomination. He said that he “was proud and grateful to be there at the start of Justice Breyer’s distinguished career on the Supreme Court—and I am proud to be here on the day he announces his retirement…He is a beacon of wisdom on our Constitution and what it means.”
Biden committed to naming his choice by the end of February, a job he considers “one of the most serious constitutional responsibilities a president has.” At the end of the address, Biden confirmed a campaign promise to nominate the first Black woman to the Court:
I’ve made no decision except the one person I will nominate will be someone with extraordinary qualifications, character, experience and integrity…And that person will be the first Black woman ever nominated to the United States Supreme Court.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that the Senate will hold a “prompt hearing” following a nomination, and will move to confirmation with “all deliberate speed.”