Breyer Hires Four New Clerks in Hint He’s Staying on Court

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Justice Stephen Breyer has hired a full complement of four law clerks for the next Supreme Court term, the court confirmed Friday, in a possible signal that he doesn’t have any immediate plans to retire.

Breyer’s future has been the subject of intense speculation in recent months. Liberal activists are calling on him to retire so President Joe Biden can nominate a successor while the Senate is in Democratic hands. Breyer, 82, has given no indication he is ready to step down.

With the Supreme Court finishing its current term this week, Breyer’s most likely retirement window is closing for the year. In the absence of sudden health issues, justices in recent decades have timed their retirements to coincide with the end of the court’s term.

Breyer played an influential role in the just-completed term, helping to craft the type of consensus rulings he favors. He wrote the court’s opinions preserving the Affordable Care Act and rejecting a public high school’s punishment of a student for a profane social media post.

In a speech in April, he underscored the need to keep the court separate from politics, making arguments that suggested little interest in timing his retirement to meet Democrats’ political needs.

“If the public sees judges as politicians in robes, its confidence in the courts and in the rule of law itself can only diminish,” Breyer said in the speech, sponsored by Harvard Law School.

The legal writer David Lat, who runs the website Original Jurisdiction, reported previously that Breyer had hired four law clerks for the 2021-22 term. The Supreme Court on Friday released their names, along with those hired by the other justices. All eight active justices will have four law clerks, and retired Justice Anthony Kennedy will have a single clerk.

Law clerks, typically recent law school graduates, work for a justice for a year, helping them digest briefs and write opinions.

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