After nearly 28 years on the Supreme Court, Justice Stephen Breyer is retiring at the end of the 2021-22 term.
Breyer may not be the most “famous” of the judge. He is not a household name like Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG), Scalia, or Marshall. However, he has been an important figure on the Supreme Court for more than a quarter-century. Justice Breyer has distinguished himself as a liberal Justice whose judicial philosophy emphasizes reasonableness, pragmatism, and civility.
Breyer — professorial, practical, and moderately liberal — wrote many of the court’s legally important but less glamorous decisions and sought, behind the scenes, to build consensus for centrist decisions on a conservative court.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer is retiring after serving more than two decades on the nation’s highest court. He was nominated to the Supreme Court in 1994, to replace retiring Justice Harry Blackmun. by President Bill Clinton. He made some notable rulings on abortion, the census, copyright, the death penalty, the environment, health care, voting rights, and partisan gerrymandering.
Breyer’s retirement gives President Biden his first opportunity to name a new justice to the court. During the 2020 campaign, Biden pledged to name the first Black woman to the Court if he got the chance. A pledge and promise he proudly fulfilled.
On February 25, 2022, Biden announced the nomination of Judge Jackson to the U.S. Supreme Court. Biden has chosen an attorney who would be the high court’s first former public defender. His nomination of Judge Jackson delivers on a campaign promise to make the historic appointment and to further diversify a court.
Her nomination is subject to a Senate vote. Currently, Democrats hold the majority, by a razor majority (50-50, but Harris as the tiebreaker). Party leaders have promised a swift but deliberate consideration of the president’s nominee. Senators have set a tentative goal of confirmation by April 8, when they leave for a two-week spring recess. Hearings could start as soon as mid-March.
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson
Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson was born in Washington DC and grew up in Miami, Florida. attended Harvard University for undergraduate and law school. At law school, she served as an editor on the Harvard Law Review. She graduated in 1996 with a Juris Doctorate cum laude. She began her legal career with three clerkships. From 1999 to 2000 she clerked at the U.S. Supreme Court for Associate Justice Stephen Breyer. Her experience includes both private and public litigation. Including, working as a public defender. She has served on both the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. On July 23, 2009, President Barack Obama nominated Jackson to become Vice-Chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission. Jackson served on the Sentencing Commission until 2014. She was on President’s Barack Obama’s shortlist for a Supreme Court nomination in 2016.
Judge Jackson traces her love of law back to pre-school when her father was attending law school. She and her father would be side by side, him with legal textbooks, and her with homework and coloring books.
If Judge Jackson is confirmed she will be the first Black woman to serve on the court. Representation in our seats of power also establishes role models and combats stereotypes. Justices bring their own perspectives and histories to the courtroom. A diverse judiciary helps instill trust in the justice system among underrepresented communities. The Court serves all the people, not just some of the people. It is important for people of different backgrounds to interpret the law. This allows justices to raise questions and concerns from their experience and expertise. It helps promote a larger conversation and have fairer rulings when different voices are being heard. A bench that fails to reflect the public it serves is ill-equipped to serve that public.
With contribution from Kayla G. Shellenhamer, second year J.D. candidate at Widener University