Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer will officially step down from his post on Thursday, ending a nearly three-decade tenure on the nation’s highest court, according to a letter from the White House.
The retirement paves the way for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, confirmed in April to fill Breyer’s forthcoming vacancy, to join Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan on the court’s left-leaning bloc. Jackson, the court’s first Black female justice, faced contentious confirmation hearings before being confirmed with a 53-47 vote by the Senate.
“It has been my great honor to participate as a judge in the effort to maintain our Constitution and Rule of Law,” Breyer, who announced his plans to retire in January, wrote in a letter to President Joe Biden on Wednesday. Jackson is ready to “take the prescribed oaths” to commence her tenure on the Supreme Court, he wrote.
Jackson will be sworn in at noon on Thursday immediately after Breyer’s official retirement, the court announced. Chief Justice John Roberts will administer the constitutional oath, and Breyer will administer the judicial oath at a ceremony attended by Jackson’s family. Jackson clerked for Breyer in the 1999-2000 term following her graduation from Harvard Law School.
The 83-year-old justice’s decision to step down comes on the heels of the court’s decision to overturn decades of precedent protecting nationwide right to abortion access, overturning Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood on Friday.
In the 5-4 vote, Breyer, appointed to the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton in 1994, joined Sotomayor and Kagan in dissent. Chief Justice John Roberts issued his own opinion siding with the Democrat-appointed justices in opposing the complete overturn of the decisions establishing abortion rights.
“The majority has overruled Roe and Casey for one and only one reason: because it has always despised them, and now it has the votes to discard them,” Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan wrote in a joint dissent.