Jan 26 (Reuters) – Liberal Justice Stephen Breyer, 83, the oldest justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, will retire at the end of June, NBC News and CNN reported on Wednesday, offering President Joe Biden the opportunity to name a successor who can serve for decades.
Breyer authored important rulings upholding abortion rights and access to health care, helped advance the rights of the LGBT+ movement, and challenged the constitutionality of the death penalty, but he often dissented in a court that moved toward the right and currently has a 6-3 conservative majority.
Breyer was appointed to the Supreme Court by Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1994. Only conservative Justice Clarence Thomas, one of only two African-American men to serve on the court, has served longer among current justices.
During the campaign for the 2020 presidential election, Biden pledged to nominate a black woman to fill any Supreme Court vacancy.
Democratic lawmakers have a narrow majority in the US Senate, which under the Constitution can confirm or reject Supreme Court nominees.
Potential Biden nominees include Ketanji Brown Jackson, a former Breyer law clerk who was confirmed by the Senate in June to an appeals court; and Leondra Kruger, who is a member of the Supreme Court of the state of California.
A Biden appointee would not change the ideological balance of the court, but it would allow him to renew his liberal wing with a much younger jurist in the life post.
Biden’s Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, appointed three justices during his four years in office, all young enough to serve for decades.
The Senate, then under Republican control, confirmed Trump’s appointment of conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett in October after the September death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bangalore; Editing in Spanish by Marion Giraldo)