OnPolitics: Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer to retire

·4 min read
From left, Justice Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Stephen Breyer.
From left, Justice Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Stephen Breyer.

Good Afternoon, OnPolitics readers!

Lots of news coming from the Supreme Court today; so, let's dive in.

First, a Texas law that relies on private citizens to enforce a ban on most abortions inspired copycat proposals as state lawmakers draft similar enforcement methods to affect gun ownership, education and transgender rights.

In Florida and Missouri, for example, lawmakers are considering bills that would permit residents to sue schools for teaching about institutional racism. California and Illinois are weighing legislation that could make it easier to sue gun manufacturers.

A domino effect: The Supreme Court ruled Dec. 10 that the Texas abortion law would remain in place while litigation over its constitutionality continues in lower courts.

Below the surface of the abortion fight is a debate about the law’s enforcement. Critics of the abortion ban, known as SB 8, predict it will create headaches for both liberals and conservatives by making it easier for people to sue over almost any policy they dislike, even when judges have ruled those policies are constitutional.

It's Amy and Chelsey with today's top stories out of Washington.

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer to step down

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer is planning to step down by the end of this term after nearly three decades on the high court, a source with knowledge of his plans told USA TODAY on Wednesday, handing President Joe Biden his first opportunity to nominate a jurist whose influence could be felt for decades.

Breyer's announcement, which several outlets citing unnamed sources said would occur at the end of the court's term in the summer, will kick off a frenzied process of naming and confirming a successor, typically a months-long ordeal that in this case is expected to end with a groundbreaking nominee: Biden promised during his presidential campaign to name a Black woman to the Supreme Court for the first time in American history.

Breyer's legacy on the court: Nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1994, Breyer is often described as a pragmatist, an optimist and an institutionalist who believed in giving deference to the legislative branch and who was skeptical of executive overreach. A prolific writer, Breyer authored significant majority opinions striking down anti-abortion laws in Nebraska and Louisiana and is also known for scathing dissents, including in several death penalty cases.

Next steps: The president will nominate his Supreme Court candidate after background investigations into public record and professional credentials as well as personal financial affairs. Those investigations usually are done by officials in the Justice Department and the White House, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Then, the nominee begins the confirmation process, first in the Senate Judiciary Committee and then in the full Senate.

Real Quick: stories you'll want to read

Blinken responds to Russia's demands on Ukraine

Secretary of State Antony Blinken sent a written reply Wednesday to the Kremlin outlining the U.S. response to Russia's demands.

Blinken said the letter “states very clearly the principles that we’re committed to and that we will defend, one way or another.” It also includes ways the Biden administration believes the North Atlantic Treaty Organization can collaborate with Russia on national security if the country "is serious," according to Blinken.

Hundreds of thousands of Russian troops are currently stationed on the Ukrainian border under order of President Vladimir Putin, who has threatened to invade the country.

Among Putin's primary demands are the continued exclusion of Ukraine and other former Soviet nations from NATO.

In the letter, which will not be made public, Blinken said NATO would not abandon its open-door policy for any nation to join, a demand the Kremlin called on the U.S. to abandon.

Blinken said the onus is now on Russia to respond.

Next steps: Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said U.S. troops could be part of a rapid response NATO force of 40,000 or used "if other situations develop" with Russian troops deployed near Ukraine over the threat on an invasion.

Want to know more?: Ukrainians are on high alert, plan to endure possible Russian invasion.

Have you gotten your free N95 mask yet? Here's where to pick one up. — Amy and Chelsey

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer announces his retirement