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Liberal US Supreme Court justice Stephen Breyer to retire


Justice Stephen Breyer (2R, front row) sits with the other eight members of the US Supreme Court

Stephen Breyer, one of three liberal justices on the US Supreme Court, plans to retire, paving the way for President Joe Biden to name a replacement to the nation’s highest court.

Breyer, 83, will step down at the end of the court’s current term, which ends in June, the NBC and CNN television networks and major newspapers reported.

The Supreme Court is currently split between six conservatives and three liberals.

Nominees to the Supreme Court need the approval of the Senate, which is currently controlled by Biden’s Democratic Party.

“For virtually his entire adult life, including a quarter century on the US Supreme Court, Stephen Breyer has served his country with the highest possible distinction,” Schumer said. “He is, and always has been, a model jurist.

Among the leading candidates to replace Breyer are Ketanji Brown Jackson, a US Court of Appeals judge, and Leondra Kruger of the California Supreme Court.

Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump nominated three justices to the court, sealing the 6-3 right-leaning majority.

The justice, who carries an annotated copy of the Constitution in his jacket pocket, has been a fierce opponent of the death penalty, and ruled in favor of abortion rights, same-sex marriage and environmental protection.

Born on August 15, 1938 in San Francisco, Breyer was educated at Stanford, Oxford and Harvard. 

He taught at Harvard until 1980, when he got the nod from then-president Jimmy Carter to serve on the federal court of appeals in Boston, where he remained for more than a decade, eventually becoming its chief judge.

A year later, he became Clinton’s second nominee to the high court, after Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The pair would end up shoring up the liberal-progressive wing of the court for more than two decades.

Breyer insisted in his rulings on assessing the real-world implications when deciding cases, rejecting the strict reading of the Constitution favored by some of his peers.

“My experience of more than 30 years as a judge has shown me that, once men and women take the judicial oath, they take the oath to heart,” he said in a 2021 lecture at Harvard Law School, his alma mater. 

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