According to reports, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, a Bill Clinton appointee, is set to retire at the end of the court’s current term, which runs until the end of June. The 83 year-old Breyer has been rumored to be considering retirement for some time (he’s the court’s oldest member). Breyer has also come under pressure from the left to leave while Joe Biden is in the White House and Democrats have a (barely) working majority in the Senate.
Speculation immediately turns on who Biden will pick for the job:
Biden’s pledge to nominate an African American woman is a first. There have been two Black men on the court — Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas — and five women, including three current members of the court: Sotomayor, Kagan and Justice Amy Coney Barrett.
The two women most often mentioned as replacements are Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, a former Breyer Supreme Court clerk who in June was confirmed to join the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger, a former Department of Justice official who has represented the government at the Supreme Court as deputy solicitor general.
Others will surely be added to the list, and Biden will likely cast a wide net. There are few black women on the federal appellate court bench, the traditional spot from which Supreme Court nominees are chosen.
Bottom line: Biden’s choice won’t change the court’s ideological balance. But as with any recent confirmation, sparks will fly…which is all the more reason to adopt term limits for justices. Regular turnover, on a regular schedule, would take a lot of the drama out of court picks.