The court is getting shaken up, and Twitter is just plain shook.
The most powerful court in the United States may once again face some huge changes in 2022: After serving more than two decades on the Supreme Court, Justice Stephen Breyer will reportedly retire, multiple sources including The New York Times confirmed on Jan. 26. This means President Joe Biden will gain the critical opportunity to replace the liberal justice with a nominee of his choosing. People all over Twitter can’t stop talking about what this means for the nation’s future, and these tweets about Breyer’s reported retirement are only the beginning.
The Times, along with NPR and NBC, all reported that Breyer, age 83, had made the decision to step down, although he had not yet made a public announcement. In a Jan. 26 tweet, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that the White House had no information to share at the time. There is no reported timeline for when Breyer’s reported retirement might go into effect.
Because there are several critical cases on the the SCOTUS docket for 2022 — including cases on abortion, the Second Amendment, and voter ID laws — this decision will be a pivotal moment for the United States. However, this doesn’t mean Biden’s nominee will automatically be appointed to the soon-to-be empty seat: There’s a very specific process that must be followed, and it’s often (but not always) a lengthy one.
As expected, people all over Twitter can’t stop buzzing, with some people cracking jokes, and others wondering who might be up for nomination.
Twitter is freaking out over Breyer’s announcement for good reason: This is huge moment for the Biden administration, as it signifies the president’s first chance to nominate a justice to the country’s highest court. The nomination of Supreme Court Justices has always been a highly controversial matter, especially between political parties. During his single term in office, former President Donald Trump had multiple opportunities to tilt the court rightward by nominating three conservative justices to the bench, including following the deaths of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who actually died during the term of President Barack Obama in 2016, and liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in September 2020. Now in 2022, the court stands at a 6-3 conservative majority, with justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett shifting the balance rightward.
Each of these Trump-appointed justices comes with their own controversy. In 2017, Gorsuch replaced Scalia after then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked former President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland. Because the vacancy occurred during Obama’s final year in office, McConnell claimed the nation was too close to an election for the sitting president to appoint a new justice, and that the next president — Trump — should choose instead. In 2018, Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings were mired in conflict as multiple women came forward with allegations of sexual assault. Kavanaugh denied all the allegations, and was appointed as the replacement for retired Justice Anthony Kennedy. In 2020, Barrett was nominated and confirmed at lightning speed during what would be Trump’s final year in office, less than one month away from the November 2020 presidential election.
In recent deliberations on cases, this batch of conservative-leaning judges has expressed a willingness to question long-standing legal precedents — meaning landmark Supreme Court cases like abortion rights case Roe v. Wade may be in danger of being overturned. So while these critical decisions hang in the balance, it looks like Biden has some big decisions to make himself when it comes to nominating a new justice to the country’s most influential court. Per the Times, the official announcement for Breyer’s retirement is expected to come on Thursday, Jan. 27.