Stephen Breyer Retires: Setting Up Debate for a More Diverse Supreme Court


After serving for nearly three decades, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer has retired. 83-year-old Breyer was an exceptionally prominent member of the court since President Bill Clinton appointed him on May 17, 1994.
Before becoming a judge for the Supreme Court, Breyer grew up in San Francisco, California. He was exposed at a very young age to both the law, and the political world as a result of his parents’ careers. His father worked for the San Francisco Board of Education, and his mother worked with public service.
As a teenager, Breyer served in the United States Army. Afterward, he attended Stanford University where he studied philosophy. Subsequently, he left the United States and went to Oxford University as a Marshall Scholar, a program that recognizes highly intellectual students. There he continued to study philosophy as well as economics. As soon as Breyer graduated, he went to Harvard Law School. During his first year out of school, he served as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Goldberg. Before he was appointed the title of Supreme Court Justice, he served in all three branches of the federal government. This included being an attorney in the Department of Justice, a Chief Counsel of the Senate Committee in the Judiciary branch, and a judge in the U.S. Court of Appeals.
In the course of his time as a member of the Supreme Court, he greatly supported racial and gender equality and LGBTQ+ rights. He is known for being a problem solver, optimistic, and cooperating with both political parties–even though he himself has liberal-leaning views. Breyer is not only an extremely accomplished judge, but also an author of many books. Some which are: “The Authority of the Court and the Peril of Politics”, “Against the Death Penalty”, and “Active Liberty”. While Breyer’s time in court has come to an end, he is leaving President Joe Biden to fight for Biden’s long wanted agenda of appointing an African American woman to become Supreme Court Justice.
Breyer’s retirement gives Biden a rare opportunity to nominate a new justice to the court. In the 2020 campaign, Biden guaranteed the American people that, if given the chance, he would make history by choosing an African American woman to become the next Supreme Court justice. In light of this promise, there are a few women who seem to have quite the chance at becoming the next member of the court. DC Circuit Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger and South Carolina US District Court Judge J. Michelle Childs are all possible nominees. If the US Supreme Court has an African American female representing the highest court in the country, it will make US history, and will hopefully change the systemic racism in the country.
Writing and researching about this topic led me to form my own opinions about the idea of having a diverse group of Supreme Court Justices. I believe that we should diversify the council because then it would represent our extremely diverse country. In a perfect world, the court would have members of all different genders, religions, races and sexualities. I also believe that congress should be more diverse as they are the ones who create laws, but the Supreme Court has an enormous say on laws as well. The Supreme Court can create laws by reinterpreting the constitution. So, they must be diverse if they are translating and changing the laws of the American people. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a Jewish woman, wanted to effectively change laws by interpreting the constitution differently to favor new problems that didn’t exist when the constitution was created. Some could argue that if the court at this time was just males, there would be different and less pro-women laws implemented. Thus, it is important that Breyer resigned now so there could be more diversity in the courtroom. If Breyer did not resign, the next president might not replace his spot with the same unique goal Biden has. Additionally, there will be another liberal in the court, as all the possible women are democratic, so the 6:3 ratio of republican to democrat will stay.
I asked some people in the Berkely High School community for their opinion about Biden’s vow to make an African American female our Supreme Court justice. Government teacher, Mr. Goldberg, claimed, “I am a firm believer that the nominee for the next Supreme Court Justice should be well qualified and should have a lasting vision of how the Constitution will shape our country for years to come.”

I am a firm believer that the nominee for the next Supreme Court Justice should be well qualified and should have a lasting vision of how the Constitution will shape our country for years to come

— Mr. Goldberg

Goldberg also added, “There are a variety of ethnic religious and racial groups that have individuals who meet those criteria for the President to choose from to become a nominee for Supreme Court Judge. Biden has made a campaign promise [to appoint a female African American] and there are a significant number of highly qualified African American females to choose from.” He continued, “I think that the positive part of making that promise and following through on it shows that all American people are truly capable of achieving any dream”.
Goldberg suggests that, “Finding the most qualified African American female will be easy because there are so many that qualify, but the bigger, overall challenge is finding and placing individuals that are reflective of what our country is like throughout the lower federal courts”.
Sophomore Marley Deroven has a similar viewpoint as Goldberg. Deroven stated that,
“Having an African American woman, and just a woman in general, on the Supreme Court is a great step in our government system. I don’t think that electing a black woman will drastically change the systems in place since we know she will be democratic, but I think it shows how the Biden administration is trying to add more representation to the highest levels of government”. Deroven also argued that having a diverse Supreme Court is important because “it brings a lot of different backgrounds, which leads to differing views, into government”.
If our country is truly the land of the free, each citizen should feel represented in the highest court of the US. It seems that the general consensus around our community would be that nominating an African American female judge to the Supreme Court is approved. With all of the applicants that Biden has to choose from, the American people alike can feel confident that Breyer’s legacy and years of notable contributions to the court will be carried on by the next justice.