Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer's Career in Photos

The justice — who served nearly 30 years on the court — is relinquishing his spot on the bench on June 30 

01 of 08

Stephen Breyer's Early Years

Stephen Breyer
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Born on Aug. 15, 1938, in San Francisco, Stephen Breyer had a lengthy career in law and the justice system before joining the Supreme Court. After graduating from Stanford, Oxford and Harvard Law, he clerked for Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg and was an assistant special prosecutor of the Watergate Special Prosecution Force in the early 1970s. In the 1980s and early '90s, he moved on as a judge in the United States Court of Appeals. During this time he also served as a professor at Harvard.

02 of 08

Stephen Breyer with Ted Kennedy

Sen. Edward Moore "Ted" Kennedy, D-Mass. with Supreme Court Justice Nominee Stephen Breyer at his confirm hearing before the Judicial Commission. July 14, 1994 (Photo by Laura Patterson/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images)
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Breyer's work also included time spent as special counsel and chief counsel of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, where he worked with such congresspeople as Sen. Ted Kennedy. He even officiated the wedding of Kennedy's son Patrick in 2011.

03 of 08

Stephen Breyer with President Bill Clinton

US Court of Appeals Chief Judge Stephen Breyer speaks during a press conference, where President Bill Clinton (right) named him as Supreme Court Associate Justice, in the White House's Rose Garden, Washington DC, May 13, 1994. (Photo by Ron Sachs/CNP/Getty Images)
Ron Sachs/CNP/Getty

When President Bill Clinton nominated Breyer to the Supreme Court in 1994, he said, "The case for [his] confirmation is clear and compelling: his sheer excellence, his broad understanding of the law, his deep respect for the role of the courts in our life and in protecting our individual rights, and his gift as a consensus builder."

He continued, "[He] will bring to the Court a well-recognized and impressive ability to build bridges in pursuit of fairness and justice."

04 of 08

Stephen Breyer's Confirmation Hearing

US Court of Appeals Chief Judge Stephen Breyer testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee during his Supreme Court Associate Justice confirmation hearing, Washington DC, July 12, 1994. (Photo by Ron Sachs/CNP/Getty Images)
Ron Sachs/getty

During his 1994 confirmation hearings, Breyer vowed to "remember that the decisions I help to make will have an effect upon the lives of many, many Americans."

05 of 08

Stephen Breyer and Wife Joanna Hare

Washington, DC - January 19: Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and wife Dr. Johanna Breyer arrive before President Obama hosts Chinese President Hu Jintao at a State Dinner at the White House, January, 19, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Bill O'Leary/getty

With wife Dr. Joanna Hare — whom he married in 1967 — at a White House state dinner in 2011. Together they have three children, Chloe, Nell and Michael.

06 of 08

Stephen Breyer on the Supreme Court

Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court pose for a formal group photograph in the East Conference Room of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, June 1, 2017. Seated left to right; Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, Chief Justice John Roberts, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, and Associate Justice Stephen Breyer. Standing left to right; Associate Justice Elena Kagan, Associate Justice Samuel Alito Jr., Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch. The Senates confirmation of Gorsuch in April restored the generally conservative majority that existed before Justice Antonin Scalias death last year. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
U.S. Supreme Court Justices Sit For Their Official Photograph. Andrew Harrer/getty

Breyer served in the Supreme Court's liberal minority for nearly three decades, leading him to author numerous dissenting opinions. Despite this, "he always remained optimistic," Brianne Gorod, one of his former law clerks and chief counsel at Constitutional Accountability Center, wrote in an essay. Breyer is known as a "pragmatist" who incorporates "real-world context" into his judicial decision-making process.

He "does everything he can to find common ground," Justice Elena Kagan wrote in the Supreme Court's press release about his retirement.

07 of 08

Stephen Breyer with President Barack Obama

U.S. President Barack Obama, center left, speaks with Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, center right, as he enters the House Chamber to deliver the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol in Washington, U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. Obama declared the U.S. economy healed and said the nation now must begin work to close the gap between the well-off and the wanting. Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Pete Marovich/getty

Breyer made a point to attend most every presidential State of the Union address during his tenure.

"I think it is very, very, very, important, very important for us to show up at that State of the Union — because people today, as you know, are more and more visual," he told Fox News, via Politico. "I'd like them to read, but they are visual. And what they see in front of them at that State of the Union is the federal government, every part, the president, the Congress, the Cabinet, military, and I would like them to see the judges too, because federal judges are also part of that government."

08 of 08

Stephen Breyer with President Joe Biden

WASHINGTON - MAY 27: (L-R) U.S. Supreme justices Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Vice President Joseph Biden and first lady Michelle Obama smile as President Barack Obama speaks during a reception in honor of Jewish American Heritage Month May 27, 2010 in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC. The reception was to celebrate Jewish American heritage and its contributions to American culture. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Alex Wong/Getty

When Breyer, now 83, announced his intention to retire in 2022, President Joe Biden recalled how the two went back to the 1970s, and said he felt "proud and grateful to be there at the start of his distinguished career on the Supreme Court," per C-SPAN.

"During his confirmation hearings ... [he said], 'The law must work for [the] people.' His brilliance, his values, his scholarship are why Judge Breyer became Justice Breyer by an overwhelming bipartisan vote at the time."

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