The liberal justice’s decision to step down after more than 27 years on the court allows the president to appoint a successor who could serve for decades.
WASHINGTON — Justice Stephen Breyer will step down from the Supreme Court at the end of the current term, according to people familiar with his thinking.
President Joe Biden and Breyer are scheduled to appear together at the White House Thursday as the Supreme Court justice is set to announce his retirement, a source familiar with the matter confirmed to NBC News.
Breyer is one of the three remaining liberal justices, and his decision to retire after more than 27 years on the court allows Biden to appoint a successor who could serve for decades and, in the short term, maintain the current 6-3 split between conservative and liberal justices.
At 83, Breyer is the court’s oldest member. Liberal activists have urged him for months to retire while Democrats hold both the White House and the Senate — a position that could change after the midterm elections in November. They contended that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg stayed too long despite her history of health problems and should have stepped down during the Obama administration.
Ginsburg’s death from cancer at 87 allowed then-President Donald Trump to appoint her successor, Amy Coney Barrett, moving the court further to the right. An appointment by Biden could keep Breyer’s seat on the liberal side of the court for years or decades to come.
Biden said in brief remarks to the press on Wednesday that he will leave it to Breyer to formally announce the retirement.