Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Chief Justice John Roberts (left), Justice Stephen Breyer
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts is sharing some of the surprising things he will miss from Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, who announced this week he plans retire from the nation's highest court in the coming months.
In a tribute to the "energetic jurist and dear friend," the 67-year-old Roberts described Breyer, 83, as someone who was experienced and pragmatic — but also with a special skill for telling knock-knock jokes.
"His pragmatism, encyclopedic knowledge, and varied government experience have enriched the Court's deliberations," Roberts wrote. "And his fanciful hypotheticals during oral argument have befuddled counsel and colleagues alike."
Roberts continued: "He is also a reliable antidote to dead airtime at our lunches, moving seamlessly from modern architecture to French cinema, to old radio shows, to a surprisingly comprehensive collection of riddles and knock-knock jokes."
The other justices also released statements on Breyer following his retirement announcement.
Amy Coney Barrett, the newest member of the court, wrote that she admired her retiring colleague for his "judicial temperament" and passion for the law, while Sonia Sotomayor said he is "funny, optimistic, and giving."
Breyer formally announced his retirement Thursday following months of speculation, writing in a letter sent to President Joe Biden, "I have decided to retire from regular active judicial service as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States."
Breyer wrote that he plans to step down when the court begins its summer recess, "assuming that by then my successor has been nominated and confirmed."
The 83-year-old Breyer was nominated to the high court by President Bill Clinton and subsequently confirmed in 1994. Since the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, he has been seen as the anchor of the court's liberal minority.
A San Francisco native, Breyer previously served as an appellate judge and Harvard University law professor.
Speaking alongside Breyer at the White House this week, President Biden said he plans to keep a promise he made during the 2020 presidential campaign: to nominate a Black woman to fill the hole left by Breyer's exit.
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"Our process is going to be rigorous," Biden said on Thursday. "I've made no decision except one: The person I will nominate will be someone with extraordinary qualifications, character, experience and integrity. And that person will be the first Black woman ever nominated to the United States Supreme Court. It's long overdue in my view."
Breyer's retirement had been of increasing importance to Democrats in D.C., given their fragile hold on Congress and the White House and the threat of losing the Senate in November's midterm elections.
Senate Democrats quickly signaled they intend to move forward with the review and confirmation process for Biden's nominee as soon as they are able.