Breyer makes it official
In a letter to President Biden Thursday, Justice Stephen Breyer said that he intends to retire from the Supreme Court at the end of its current term this summer.
"I am writing to tell you that I have decided to retire from regular active judicial service as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States," Breyer said. "I intend this decision to take effect when the Court rises for the summer recess this year (typically late June or early July) assuming that my successor has been nominated and confirmed."
"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," Biden said. "It's long overdue, in my view."
He said he will announce his nominee before the end of next month.
With reports on Wednesday that 83-year-old Stephen Breyer plans to retire, Biden will now have the opportunity to name another liberal to the high court. And already it has been noted that during his campaign, Biden promised he would nominate a black female to the Supreme Court as soon as there was a vacancy. He confirmed that today (see sidebar).
Horace Cooper is co-chairman of the Project 21 Black Leadership Network. He says race and gender should not be the criteria for picking someone for such an important post.
"[If he does that,] someone will have filled a quota for the president – and that's why this person is selected. Not because they're the smartest, not because they're the most talented, but instead merely because they fit the bill," Cooper exclaims. "That is a shameful, shameful basis for who is going to get to be on the court."
Calling it "a big problem," Cooper finds it unlikely that Biden would nominate his low-polling VP Kamala Harris to the post, paving the way for Michelle Obama to become vice president.
"It is the vice president whose role it is to cast tie-breaking votes [in the Senate] – and if [Harris] is nominated, the real question is going to be: Is she actively going to have to play the role of casting the tie-breaking vote?" Cooper poses.
"That, I think, puts the White House in a particular box that not a single Republican would be inclined to appoint her."
Whoever it is …
Pundits have been speculating on who Biden will nominate. DC Circuit Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has been prominent among the guesses, which have also included California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger and U.S. District Judge Michelle Childs. But Rob Chambers of AFA Action says whoever it is will, without a doubt, be unacceptable to conservatives.
"We have very little confidence that the Biden administration will nominate anyone that we would not oppose," Chambers tells AFN. "And that means we would be calling on all our supporters across the country to contact their two senators and urge them to send a message to the Biden administration as well as their senators to oppose this particular nominee."
Forced out – or no?
Breyer, one of three reliably liberal votes on the Supreme Court, has been pressured by the Left to step down while Democrats still hold the Senate majority. They want to avoid what happened with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who was urged to retire while Barack Obama was in office, didn't, and passed away while Trump was in office.
Attorney Joe Luppino-Esposito of Pacific Legal Foundation says Breyer's been clear that he's not paying attention to those voices. "Justice Breyer has been saying for months he did not want to have that pressure on him to be forced out of the office because of the political situation," he explains.
But he suspects Breyer isn't as immune to the pressure as he would have the public believe and will be leaving the court at the end of the term.
Editor's Note: AFA Action is an affiliate of the American Family Association, the parent organization of the American Family News Network, which operates AFN.net.