Supreme Court

Stephen Breyer Officially Retires Tomorrow, Opening a Seat for Ketanji Brown Jackson

“My retirement from active service,” Breyer told the president, “will be effective on Thursday, June 30, 2022, at noon.”


Stephen Breyer wrote a letter today to President Joe Biden stating that he will officially retire tomorrow from his position as a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. "The Court has announced that tomorrow, beginning at 10 a.m., it will hand down all remaining opinions during this Term. Accordingly, my retirement from active service," Breyer told the president, "will be effective on Thursday, June 30, 2022, at noon." "It has been my great honor," Breyer wrote, "to participate as a judge in the effort to maintain our Constitution and the Rule of Law." Breyer's replacement, Ketanji Brown Jackson, one of his former clerks, has already been confirmed by the Senate, so we can expect her to start work at SCOTUS shortly.

Breyer was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1994 by President Bill Clinton, who said the justice-to-be would "strike the right balance between the need for discipline and order, being firm on law enforcement issues but really sticking in there for the Bill of Rights." "Alas," I wrote when Breyer first announced his impending retirement, "the former president proved only half right. Breyer was frequently 'firm' in his deference to the government. But that same deference often led Breyer to do the opposite of 'sticking in there for the Bill of Rights,' especially in major Fourth Amendment cases."

Jackson looks to be a more promising justice than Breyer on such crucial issues. Indeed, in her career as a lower court judge over the past decade, she has demonstrated admirable judgment in criminal justice cases. Criminal justice reform advocates are likely to be much happier with her record on the Supreme Court than they have been with Breyer's.