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Chief Justice John Roberts Pays Homage to Retiring Justice Stephen Breyer

Chief Justice John Roberts

Chief Justice John Roberts Pays Homage to Retiring Justice Stephen Breyer

At the conclusion of what was Breyer’s final oral argument session on the high court, Chief Justice John Roberts paid a brief but moving homage to the retiring Justice Stephen Breyer.

Roberts remarked, with tears in his eyes, that Breyer will leave the Supreme Court at the end of its current term, which is expected to complete by the end of June, meaning the arguments heard by the justices on Wednesday were the last with Breyer on the bench.

“For 28 years, this has been his arena for remarks profound and moving, questions challenging and insightful, and hypotheticals downright silly,” Roberts said.

The chief justice noted that during the court’s final session of the term in April, Breyer mentioned “radioactive muskrats” and “John the Tiger Man,” the latter of which was brought up during Tuesday’s arguments. Breyer has asked lawyers before the court hypothetical questions about deranged “tomato children,” a “rabbit-duck,” and garage-door sensors eaten by raccoons in the past.

As Roberts recounted the hypotheticals that were a feature of Breyer’s decades on the high court, Justice Clarence Thomas could be heard giggling.

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“Now, at the appropriate time, we will in accordance with tradition and practice, read and enter into the record an exchange of letters between the court and Justice Breyer marking his retirement,” Roberts continued. “For now, we leave the courtroom with deep appreciation for the privilege of sharing this bench with him.”

Breyer, who was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton in 1994, announced his retirement from the court in late January. President Biden got his first chance to choose a Supreme Court justice when Breyer stepped down, and he chose Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson in late February.

Jackson was approved by the Senate earlier this month in a bipartisan vote of 53 to 47, confirming her position in history as the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court. Jackson clerked for Breyer on the Supreme Court in addition to sitting on the federal bench for nine years.

The ideological makeup of the court will not change as a result of Breyer’s retirement and Jackson’s appointment, but at 51 years old, Jackson is ready to serve for decades.

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