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Justice Breyer could face pressure to retire amid Democratic control of Senate, White House

The 82-year-old Breyer has served on the Supreme Court for more than a quarter century.

Updated: January 10, 2021 - 1:38pm

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With Democrats securing control of both the White House and the Senate, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer could face pressure from some corners to retire from his post on the nation's high court so Joe Biden can select a replacement.

The 82-year-old who was nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1994 has served on the Supreme Court for more than a quarter century, and became the eldest of the court's liberal justices following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last year.

“Given the composition of the Senate — one unexpected change could cost the Democrats their majority — and the inherent uncertainty about the 2022 midterm election, Justice Breyer should consider stepping down when there is a Democratic President and a Democratic Senate to replace him,” Dean of the University of California at Berkley law school Erwin Chemerinsky said in an email, according to the Washington Post. “It is his best way of ensuring that someone with his values and his views takes his place.”

Former South Carolina state lawmaker Bakari Sellers in a January 5 tweet said: "If we get to 50, I need Justice Breyer to announce retirement at 12:01pm on January 20th." 

Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff both scored victories in their Senate races in the state of Georgia. When they begin serving in the U.S. Senate, Democrats will have 48 seats, plus Independent Senators Bernie Sanders and Angus King who caucus with the Democrats. When Kamala Harris becomes Vice President, she will have the tie-breaking vote in the event of a tie in the Congressional chamber.

Three of the Supreme Court's current nine justices were appointed by President Trump: Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett.

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