Stephen Breyer will retire this week, paving way for Ketanji Brown Jackson to be sworn in as Supreme Court justice

Judge Jackson will replace Breyer following this year’s controversial term with the new conservative-majority court

Alex Woodward
New York
Wednesday 29 June 2022 20:39 BST

Related: Biden condemns ‘extreme ideology’ of Supreme Court after Roe v Wade decision

After announcing his retirement earlier this year, US Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer will formally end his tenure on the nation’s high court on 30 June, shortly after the court issues two remaining rulings from this term.

In a letter dated 29 June to President Joe Biden, Justice Breyer said his retirement from active service, after nearly 30 years on the bench, will be effective at noon on Thursday, two hours after justices deliver final opinions before a summer recess.

“It has been my great honor to participate as a judge in the effort to maintain our Constitution and the Rule of Law,” Justice Breyer wrote.

Ketanji Brown Jackson, who was nominated by the president and confirmed in the US Senate earlier this year, will be formally sworn in as the first Black woman and first former public defender to serve on the nine-member court.

Judge Jackson, a former clerk to Justice Breyer, is prepared “take the prescribed oaths to begin her service”, he said.

She will be sworn into the role at noon on 30 June.

Chief Justice John Roberts will administer the Constitutional Oath and Justice Breyer will administer the Judicial Oath in a small ceremony with members of Judge Jackson’s family present, according to a statement from the court.

On Thursday, before the end of the term and Justice Breyer’s retirement, justices are expected to issue opinions in two high-profile cases – Biden v Texas, on the so-called “Remain in Mexico” measure, and West Virginia v Environmental Protection Agency, which could determine how or if the federal government can regulate carbon emissions.

It is likely that any outstanding applications and petitions to the court will also be determined by noon on Thursday before the receess.

The court will return for its conferences and begin hearing oral arguments in other cases at the beginning of its next term to begin later this year.

Judge Jackson’s confirmation on the court is not likely to reshape the court’s conservative-majority balance.

The retirement of 83-year-old Justice Breyer – one of three liberal-leaning justices on the court, along with Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor – follows a controversial term in which the court’s new conservative majority struck down a constitutional right to abortion care, ruled that a New York concealed-carry law violated the Second Amendment, issued rulings in cases that could expand religious influence in public schools, and reinstated Republican-drawn congressional maps that other courts determined violated the Voting Rights Act.

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