Updated: Mar 1
By: ELIAN GOMEZ / STAFF REPORTER
At 83 years of age, Justice Stephen Breyer announced his retirement from the Supreme Court. Appointed in 1994 by President Bill Clinton, Justice Breyer will be leaving at the end of the current term, which ends in late June, after serving for almost 30 years.
The news broke on Jan. 26, and President Biden will now have the opportunity to make his first appointment to the Supreme Court.
There were high levels of concern over Justice Breyer overextending his tenure. The death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg paved the way for Justice Amy Coney Barett to be confirmed under the Trump Administration, further skewing the conservative majority.
As the eldest member, Justice Breyer seems to have taken into account the protests from members of the Democratic party wanting to appoint a younger nominee.
The retiring Justice is known as the most pragmatic on the bench, believing that it is “both wise and appropriate to change constitutional norms to serve modern needs.”
With this open seat available, Democrats have been pushing for the nomination of a Black Woman to the highest court, which has never been done before.
Biden's Potential Nominees
President Biden said he has done a “deep dive” into the potential nominees, but has yet to name one.
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson currently serves on the US Court of Appeals for DC, which is considered second in power to the Supreme Court. Her competency cannot be denied; like many other justices, she graduated from Harvard and Harvard Law School.
Surprisingly, she clerked under Justice Breyer, and fits the Biden Administration’s focus on judges with experience as defense attorneys. At the age of 51, she guarantees Democrats an extensive tenure.
Justice Leondra Kruger, on the other hand, was the youngest appointee to the California Supreme Court in more than a century when she was appointed in 2015 at the age of 38.
She currently holds that position at age 45 and has written outstanding opinions on the 4th Amendment, earning the Attorney General’s Award for Exceptional Service, the most prestigious for one’s performance.
Unlike her counterpart, Justice Kruger has not gone through thorough examination as a potential nominee. If appointed, it would be a remarkable achievement for what is considered a very young nominee.
Race Against Time
The Biden Administration faces pressure to nominate its candidate before the 2022 midterms. It is expected that Senate Republicans will regain majority, while vowing to block any Supreme Court nominee presented by the Executive.
Justices are usually approved 2-3 months after their nomination. In the recent case with Justice Barrett, this took only a month and a half. The Senate is evenly split between Republican and Democrats, as each hold 50 seats in the chamber. Since all 50 votes are necessary to approve the nominee, the concerns of all members will have to be addressed. This especially towards moderate democrats like Joe Manchin, who tend to be more critical, and have no problem delaying approval.
If the nominee is delayed long enough for a potential Republican Senate majority, the President might resort to choosing a more moderate nominee that gains bipartisan approval.
President Biden was quoted saying: “While I've been studying candidates' backgrounds and writings, I've made no decision except one: the 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."
Democrats are poised to appoint a Black woman. That remains to be seen, and with many obstacles in the road to approval, time is the biggest one.