Justice Stephen Breyer, the driest writer to ever write a Supreme Court opinion, has officially announced his retirement. It will be effective on Thursday at noon ET, just after the court issues its final opinions of the year.
It’s not as if a Supreme Court resignation notification is going to be a juicy document, but I do really commend Breyer for sticking to his dry, oat-bran writing ways until the end. “It has been my great honor to participate as a judge in the effort to maintain our Constitution and the Rule of Law,” he wrote in a letter to President Joe Biden on Wednesday—less than a week after his colleagues overturned Roe v. Wade.
This means we can finally bid adieu to this turtle-looking liberal and welcome Ketanji Brown Jackson to her new hostile work environment. She’ll be seated with coworkers who do not believe in respecting legal precedent and don’t understand how history works. And a couple of her new coworkers have credibly been accused of sexual misconduct. Fun!
Breyer gets to quietly exit stage left knowing that he at least did something better than his late colleague, Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RIP): The 83-year-old had the clarity of vision to retire while his party was still in power and could put a younger jurist on the court. For all their hopes otherwise, the Supreme Court is a branch of government, and it is a part of the political sphere.
One of Breyer’s last writings was the triple-bylined dissent in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization released last week. Breyer, along with Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, wrote, “Respecting a woman as an autonomous being, and granting her full equality, meant giving her substantial choice over this most personal and most consequential of all life decisions.”
The court’s longest tenured liberal is likely to go out with a whimper. The final two cases before the Supreme Court for this term are a challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases and a challenge to the Trump administration’s “remain in Mexico” immigration policy that the Biden administration has continued to enforce.
In less than 24 hours, Breyer will be allowed to wash his hands of all it. I look forward to whatever boring books Breyer will write in retirement, or whatever banal speeches he will give to legal societies or college graduations. I’m not exactly sure what lawyers do in retirement, as I barely know what journalists do when they retire—or if we even can.