Justice Breyer officially announces retirement, Biden commits to nominating a black woman

The president called the 83-year-old justice's retirement "bittersweet"

Updated: January 27, 2022 - 2:28pm

President Biden on Thursday honored retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer at a White House ceremony, following Breyer's official announcement that he will step down later this year.

"I'm here today to express the nation's gratitude to Justice Stephen Breyer for his remarkable career in public service and his clear-eyed commitment to making our nation's laws work for its people," Biden said with Breyer by his side.

The president also called Breyer's retirement a "bittersweet" day for him. Biden has known the 83-year-old Breyer for close to 40 years.

During the White House address, Biden reaffirmed his commitment to nominating a black woman to the high court as Breyer's replacement.

"The person I will nominate will be someone with extraordinary qualifications, character, experience and integrity," he said. "And that person will be the first black woman ever nominated to the United States Supreme Court. It's long overdue in my view. I made that commitment during the campaign for president, and I will keep that commitment." 

Biden is expected to pick a younger liberal judge able to serve on the high court for decades to come.

He also said he has "made no choice at this point," but a nominee may be expected by the end of February.

Breyer announced his retirement to Biden in a letter Thursday, following breaking news Wednesday of his decision to step down.

"I enormously appreciate the privilege of serving as part of the federal judicial system – nearly 14 years as a Court of Appeals Judge and nearly 28 years as a member of the Supreme Court," Breyer wrote in a letter dated Jan. 27. "I have found the work challenging and meaningful. My relations with each of my colleagues have been warm and friendly. Throughout, I have been aware of the great honor of participating as a judge in the effort to maintain our Constitution and the rule of law.

Breyer plans to step down at the end of the court's current term in June or early July, should the administration have selected and successfully confirmed a replacement justice.