Justice Breyer to retire; Biden to fill Supreme Court vacancy

Liberal Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer is retiring, giving President Joe Biden an opening he has pledged to fill by naming the first Black woman to the high court.

The 83-year-old Breyer has been a pragmatic force on a court that has grown increasingly conservative in recent years, trying to forge majorities with more moderate justices right and left of center.

Breyer’s departure won’t change the 6-3 conservative advantage on the court, since his replacement will be nominated and almost certainly confirmed by a Senate where Democrats have the slimmest majority.

During his 2020 campaign and since his election, Biden has said he’d nominate a Black woman to the court. And if he follows through and the Senate confirms his choice, it would mark the first time four women would sit together on the high court and the first time two of the court’s nine members would be Black justices

Justice Clarence Thomas is the court’s only Black justice and only the second Black justice ever.

Two names mentioned frequently as possible nominees are Ketanji Brown Jackson, a federal appeals court judge, and Leondra Kruger, a justice on the California Supreme Court.

With Breyer’s retirement, Thomas will be the oldest member of the court at 73.