Justice Stephen Breyer to retire from Supreme Court

The justice’s plans have been a focus of Democratic concern—and pressure from some activists—after the September 2020 death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg allowed Republicans to replace a liberal stalwart with a young conservative, Justice Amy Coney Barrett. The GOP move cemented a solid 6-3 conservative majority just before Democrats recaptured the power to appoint and confirm justices with a victory in the presidential election and a majority in the Senate.

Justice Breyer is the court’s oldest member, and some liberals have pushed for him to step down so that Mr. Biden, a Democrat, can appoint a like-minded jurist. His departure is more likely to preserve than alter the court’s ideological balance, and Justice Breyer will still have a say in this term’s decision on the most significant abortion case to come before the court in decades. The justices could limit or overrule the court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade establishing a woman’s right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.

A confirmation process midway through an election year in an evenly divided Senate is certain to further raise political tensions in a nation that has come to see the Supreme Court in increasingly partisan terms.