FILE PHOTO: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor poses during group portrait at Supreme Court in Washington

Read Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer’s full retirement letter

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer made his retirement official Thursday in a letter to President Joe Biden announcing he intended to leave the bench at the end of the court’s term this summer “assuming that by then my successor has been nominated and confirmed.”

“I enormously appreciate the privilege of serving as part of the federal judicial system,” Breyer wrote in the letter released by the court.

“I have found the work challenging and meaningful,” he added. “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.”

Read the full letter below.


Breyer, 83, was appointed to the court by President Bill Clinton in 1994. He came to the court after serving for 14 years on the Boston-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, whose jurisdiction includes Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Puerto Rico.

Court watchers and analysts have described Breyer as a pragmatic jurist and a part of the court’s liberal bloc of justices.

“I think he thinks that in order for the people to have trust and faith in the court — the kind of trust and faith that lets the court do its job — he has to continue to be a neutral judge,” Risa Goluboff, dean of the University of Virginia Law School and a former Breyer clerk, told the PBS NewsHour.

With Breyer’s retirement, Biden will have an opportunity to nominate an associate justice. During his presidential campaign and in the early months of his presidency, Biden vowed to pick the first-ever Black woman to serve on the nation’s highest court.

The U.S. Senate will ultimately have the final say on confirming the president’s nomination, as defined in the Constitution.

Read Breyer’s full letter to the president here.