Stephen Breyer is retiring from the Supreme Court 


Justice Stephen Breyer answering a question during an interview in Washington, DC, in 2012. | Jewel Samad / AFP via Getty Images

The Supreme Court’s oldest member, and one of its three remaining liberals, is reportedly set to retire. 

After nearly 28 years on the Supreme Court, Justice Stephen Breyer will retire, giving President Joe Biden his first opportunity to fill a seat on the nation’s highest court.

Breyer was a skilled dealmaker, and his tenure on the Supreme Court represented one of the few remaining bridges to an era when meaningful bipartisan consensus was possible and personal relationships could sometimes overcome the drive for partisan advantage.

With Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death in September 2020 — and her replacement with the conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett — Breyer leaves the Court with a 6-3 conservative majority, one that shows far less inclination toward compromise than the Court Breyer served on for most of his time as a justice.

Democrats control both the White House and a narrow majority in the Senate. This retirement is the party’s first real chance to fill a Supreme Court seat in more than a decade — and its first shot since Senate Republicans blocked President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, from receiving a hearing in 2016.