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AP sources: Justice Breyer to retire; Biden to fill vacancy

Liberal Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer is retiring, giving President Joe Biden an opening he has pledged to fill by naming the first Black woman to the high court, two sources tell The Associated Press.

Breyer, 83, has been a pragmatic force on a court that has grown increasingly conservative in recent years, trying to forge majorities with more moderate justices right and left of center.

Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer listens during a forum at the French Cultural Center in Boston, Feb. 13, 2017 (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

Breyer has been a justice since 1994, appointed by President Bill Clinton. Along with the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Breyer opted not to step down the last time the Democrats controlled the White House and the Senate during Barack Obama’s presidency. Ginsburg died in September 2020, and then-president Donald Trump filled the vacancy with a conservative justice, Amy Coney Barrett.

Breyer’s departure, expected over the summer, won’t change the 6-3 conservative advantage on the court because his replacement will be nominated by Biden and almost certainly confirmed by a Senate where Democrats have the slimmest majority. It also will make conservative Justice Clarence Thomas the oldest member of the court. Thomas turns 74 in June.

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