Supreme Court vacancy leaves Biden with weighty choice

SUPREME COURT JUSTICE Stephen Breyer announces retirement with a copy of the Constitution in hand as President Joe Biden stands by. Andrew Harnik / AP

Aaron Velez | News Editor

February 6, 2022

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer is retiring, meaning that America is witnessing another “once in a lifetime” occurrence. The life in question is not ours, however, but of the justices themselves, whose terms permit them to serve for life. This means that since 2017, four of the seven justices in the court have been replaced.

While not as commonly thought of, a justice retiring while still alive is actually equally as common as one dying in office; often, as is likely in the case of Breyer, a judge will step down in a political move to make room for another, younger judge with similar political values.

For those who are not familiar, it is within the power of the president to appoint a new justice after a vacancy. Justices then undergo a confirmation process in the U.S. Senate. Unsurprisingly, this process is rarely without controversy: in March of 2016, current Attorney General Merrick Garland was placed on hold for nearly an entire year following the death of Antonin Scalia after the Republican majority simply refused to hold a vote. Later, Justice Brett Kavanaugh was nominated and confirmed by a single-vote margin after months of battling sexual misconduct allegations. And finally, merely months before the election in 2020, the renowned Ruth Bader Ginsberg passed away, and rather than holding to their actions and claims in 2016 that a justice should never be sworn in during an election year, the Republican majority swore in Amy Coney Barrett in record speed.

So where does that leave Biden? 

POTENTIAL CANDIDATES for the 2022 Supreme Court Replacement. CNN

Due to the fact that there is a narrow Democrat majority in both the House and Senate, and that it is the middle of the presidential term, it will be much more difficult for Republicans to stall the hearing. “It seems very unlikely that the Republicans can postpone this hearing for two more years,” junior Ashley Jahed said. “Still, what they did after Ginsberg seemed impossible too, so nothing is guaranteed in the U.S. government.”

The current plan is for Biden to appoint a Black woman to the position, which would mark the first Black woman to ever serve as a Supreme Court Justice, and only the third Black American to do so in general.

“I hope Biden can put in a strong leader who helps the diversity of the court,” junior Kyla Brown said. “It is important for every citizen to be able to see representation, especially in the highest court in the land.”

We can only wait and see how the situation plays out; however, there is no doubt that the Biden administration will want to make a swift decision to input a Black judge, specifically during Black History Month.

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