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Judge Breyer Mum on Brother’s Retirement: ‘He Loves His Job’

May 20, 2021, 7:03 PM

U.S. Judge Charles Breyer won’t say whether his older brother Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer plans to retire.

“I think we’ll find out at some point,” the California trial court judge said with a laugh when asked by Bloomberg Law about his brother’s plans. “I will tell you one thing: He loves his job.”

Justice Breyer, 82, has come under intense pressure from Democrats to retire this term and make way for President Joe Biden to name his successor. There was some speculation that Breyer’s announcement might come before the end of the term, but his decision to hire a full slate of clerks, as reported by legal blogger David Lat, diminished some liberals’ hopes.

Judge Breyer, who is three years his brother’s junior, has already switched to part-time work as a semi-retired judge on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. He was appointed to the court in 1997 by Bill Clinton and took senior status in 2011, which allows a judge to vacate their seat and take on a lower number of cases.

Family Ties

Although it’s not common, the Breyers aren’t the only current or former federal judges with family ties.

Brothers Morris and Richard Arnold served on the St. Louis-based Eighth Circuit together. Two Fifth Circuit judges, Carolyn Dineen King and Tom Reavley, married. And Ninth Circuit Judge William Fletcher, who recently announced his plans to take senior status, served on the San Francisco-based circuit with his mother Betty Binns Fletcher.

Biden’s nominee to the Chicago-based Seventh Circuit Candace Jackson-Akiwumi, would add to that list if confirmed. She is the daughter of Judge Raymond Alvin Jackson of the Eastern District of Virginia. The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced Jackson-Akiwumi’s nomination Thursday.

VIDEO: Justice Stephen Breyer’s most surreal hypotheticals, during Supreme Court oral arguments, brought to life.

To contact the reporter on this story: Madison Alder in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Seth Stern at; John Crawley at