AFJ Commemorates Justice Breyer’s Illustrious Career On The Supreme Court

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Carolyn Bobb

WASHINGTON, D.C., January 26, 2022 – Today, multiple media reports have confirmed that Justice Stephen Breyer intends to retire at the end of the current Supreme Court term in June. During his time on the bench, Breyer wrote some incredibly significant decisions that advanced equal rights for millions of Americans. 

Most recently, Breyer wrote the opinion in California v. Texas, protecting the Affordable Care Act from the law’s most recent challenge and thus ensuring tens of millions of Americans could keep their health coverage.  

Breyer has been crucial to protecting reproductive freedom. He wrote the 2016 opinion in Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt, striking down a Texas statute that severely limited the ability of abortion providers to operate because of requirements such as hospital admitting privileges for doctors. He likewise wrote the follow-up 2020 opinion in June Medical Services v. Russo, overturning an identical law in Louisiana. In 2000, he wrote the opinion overturning Nebraska’s law criminalizing late-term abortions even when the parent’s life was in danger (Stenberg v. Carhart), and he vigorously dissented when the Court struck down California’s regulations for so-called “crisis pregnancy centers” (2018’s National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra).  

Breyer’s career has likewise included important dissents on behalf of consumers (2011’s AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion), immigrants (2018’s Trump v. Hawaii), gun safety (2010’s McDonald v. Chicago and 1995’s United States v. Lopez), and criminal justice (2003’s Ewing v. California, 2019’s Bucklew v. Precysthe, and 2015’s Glossip v. Gross). 

Alliance for Justice President Rakim H. D. Brooks issued the following statement: 

“Justice Breyer has always been one of the most active members of the bench — drawing as many laughs as any justice in recent history. His jurisprudence, however, has had the quiet dignity of a justice who understood that the proper role of the Court is to defer to the people and their elected representatives to decide our democracy’s most important questions. Time and time again, he has stood up against the wealthy and powerful to protect the fundamental rights and legal protections of millions of Americans.  

“Justice Breyer always demonstrated unique and peerless wisdom in determining the balance between popular government and individual rights when fundamental interests were at stake. For instance, in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1, where the rights of Black and brown school children to a good public education were at stake, he rightly observed that ‘[t]he government may voluntarily adopt race-conscious measures to improve conditions of race even when it is not under a constitutional obligation to do so.’  

“We are overcome with joy that President Biden will now have a historic opportunity to nominate the nation’s first Black woman to a seat on the Supreme Court. We are confident that this nominee will have a demonstrated commitment to equal justice and will protect the rights of all Americans, and we are well prepared for the fight ahead to ensure her speedy confirmation.”