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Breyer Out, Brown in Punctuates Beginning of SCOTUS Recess

The Supreme Court is heading into the summer calm after a flurry of high-profile activity, perhaps none as notable as its recent decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion.

supreme court 546279 1920The end of June, though, also brought with it the relatively understated retirement of Justice Stephen Breyer, who sat on the bench of the nation’s highest court for nearly three decades. His formal retirement letter, dated Thursday, June 30, was pithy and to the point. “This past January, I wrote to inform you of my intent to retire from regular active service as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, upon the Court rising for its summer recess,” he wrote. “ … It has been my great honor to participate as a judge in the effort to maintain our Constitution and Rule of Law.”

Newly minted Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson was recently confirmed and will replace the retiring liberal judge. Breyer was nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1994. As he formally stepped down, many in the legal arena praised his public service and made note of his pragmatic approach in the court. President Joe Biden spoke highly of the judge and highlighted his work ethic and commitment to making the U.S. a better place through his work.

“Beyond his intellect and hard work and legal insight, he was famous for biking across Washington virtually every day for a face-to-face meeting with a Republican chief counsel—the ranking Republican counsel. And over breakfast, they’d discuss what would they do for the country together,” Biden recalled.

Biden identified opinions he penned ranging in topics from religious freedom to reproductive rights and pointed to Breyer’s thoughtfulness with respect to his decisions as key factors to his success. “Everyone knows that Stephen Breyer has been an exemplary justice—fair to the parties before him, courteous to his colleagues, careful in his reasoning,” Biden said. “His opinions are practical, sensible, and nuanced. It reflects his belief that a job of a judge is not to lay down a rule, but to get it right—to get it right.”

From Twitter

Elizabeth Warren @SenWarren Jun 30

"I’m thrilled to see Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson sworn in today as the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court! As a former public defender, she’ll bring an invaluable perspective to the bench. I also want to thank Justice Breyer for his extraordinary public service."

American Bar Association President Reginald Turner also praised the outgoing justice and thanked him for his decades of service. “In his 28 years on the nation’s highest court, Breyer wrote hundreds of opinions and dissents and brought a sense of pragmatism to the bench. The decisions he wrote took into account the real-life consequences of the people they affect,” Turner wrote. “ … The ABA wishes Justice Breyer and his family much happiness in his retirement and hopes he continues to impart his wisdom to the current and future generations of lawyers.”

From Twitter

Tom Fitton @TomFitton Jun 29

"Justice Breyer was bullied off the Supreme Court by the revolutionary left--and will be replaced by a far-left judge who was picked through a process compromised by race and sex discrimination."

According to information provided by the Supreme Court, Breyer attended Stanford University and Magdalen College, Oxford before graduating from Harvard Law School. He began his SCOTUS career serving as a law clerk for Justice Arthur Goldberg in 1964. Eventually, he was given a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit where he later served as chief judge.

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