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Stephen Breyer Fast Facts


CNN Editorial Research

Here is a look at the life of Stephen Breyer, retired associate justice of the US Supreme Court.


Birth date: August 15, 1938

Birth place: San Francisco, California

Birth name: Stephen Gerald Breyer

Father: Irving Breyer, an attorney

Mother: Anne (Roberts) Breyer

Marriage: Joanna (Hare) Breyer (September 4, 1967-present)

Children: Chloe, Nell and Michael

Education: Stanford University, A.B., 1959; Oxford University (Marshall Scholar), B.A., 1961; Harvard Law School, LL.B., 1964, graduated magna cum laude

Religion: Jewish

Other Facts

Nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1994.

Former assistant prosecutor during the Watergate hearings in the 1970s.

Awarded the prominent Distinguished Eagle Scout Award, eligible only to those who have been an Eagle Scout for at least 25 years.


1964-1965 – Law clerk for Justice Arthur Goldberg, US Supreme Court.

1965-1967 – Special assistant to the assistant attorney general at the US Department of Justice.

1967-1994 Holds various positions at Harvard University Law School, including professor and lecturer.

1974-1975 – Special counsel for the US Senate Judiciary Committee.

1977-1980 – Professor of government at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

1979-1980 – Chief counsel for the US Senate Judiciary Committee.

1981-1990 – Serves as a judge for the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

1985-1989 – Member of the US Sentencing Commission.

1990-1994 – Serves as the chief judge of the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

August 3, 1994 – Sworn in as an Associate Supreme Court Justice, filling the seat held by former Justice Harry Blackmun.

June 2004 – Named by Chief Justice William Rehnquist to lead a panel of justices to consider ways to police members of the federal judiciary while allowing them to maintain their traditional level of independence.

September 2005 – Breyer’s book, “Active Liberty: Interpreting our Democratic Constitution,” is published.

October 30, 2008 – Fordham University Law School – a Jesuit school – gives an award to Breyer, causing some controversy due to his support of a woman’s right to have a legal abortion.

September 2010 – His book, “Making Our Democracy Work,” is published.

February 9, 2012 – While vacationing on the Caribbean island of Nevis, Breyer is robbed by an intruder armed with a machete. The assailant takes $1,000 in cash and flees. No one is hurt in the incident.

April 26, 2013 – Injures his right shoulder in a fall from his bicycle. The injury requires reverse shoulder replacement surgery the following day.

June 29, 2015 – In the case Glossip v. Gross, Breyer raises the question of whether the death penalty is unconstitutional in a 40-page minority dissenting opinion, which Ruth Bader Ginsburg joins. The judges vote 5-4 to uphold the use of a controversial drug for lethal injection in executions.

September 2015 – Breyer’s book, “The Court and the World: American Law and the New Global Realities,” is published.

May 23, 2016 – During a public appearance, Breyer says he does not feel the Supreme Court is diminished without an immediate fill-in for Justice Antonin Scalia, who died earlier in the year, and having a possible 4-4 vote split would only make an impact in a few of the 70 to 80 cases they hear each year.

April 13, 2020 – A rarity for an active member of the Supreme Court, Breyer appears in a public service announcement urging individuals to fill out their census questionnaires, emphasizing how vital the information will be as the country grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.

April 6, 2021 – In a two hour lecture at Harvard Law School, Breyer expresses concern about the standing of the high court and the possible erosion of public confidence in its decisions.

July 17, 2021 – Breyer tells CNN in an exclusive interview that he has not decided when he will retire and is especially gratified with his new role as the senior liberal on the bench, his first public comments amid speculation of a Supreme Court vacancy.

January 27, 2022 – Breyer formally notifies President Joe Biden of his intent to retire at the end of the year’s Supreme Court term, according to a letter released by the court. He says he intends to step down at the summer recess, assuming that by then his “successor has been nominated and confirmed.” His retirement is effective June 30, 2022.

July 15, 2022 – Harvard Law School announces that Breyer is returning to the school as the Byrne Professor of Administrative Law and Process.

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