Justice Stephen Breyer On A Changing Court
Justice Stephen Breyer is the 108th person to sit on the Supreme Court. Soon he will welcome the 114th, as President Donald Trump nominates a successor to Justice Anthony Kennedy.
President Trump is expected to make the most of this opportunity to cement a conservative legacy, one that will be felt long after his presidency. With so much commentary and debate expected to surround the Supreme Court in the weeks and months ahead, we present a view from inside, courtesy of Justice Breyer.
President Clinton appointed Breyer in 1994, 30 years after Breyer served as a clerk for Justice Arthur Goldberg. In an interview with Fresh Air in 2010, Breyer described his approach to hearing cases, one that interprets the Constitution in modern contexts:
“I think we’re following an intention by people who wrote this document — Madison, Adams, Washington, Hamilton. They had an idea that they were writing a constitution and in that constitution, they would create certain institutions … to create basically democratic systems of government protecting basic liberty,” he explains. “Much in the Constitution is written in a very general way. Words like ‘freedom of speech’ do not define themselves. Nor does the word ‘liberty.’ And what they intended with these very basic values, in a document, [was that they] would last for hundreds of years. So they had values that changed but little, while the application of those values changes as circumstances change.”
We’ll talk to Breyer about his time on a changing court.
Stephen Breyer, Associate justice of the United States Supreme Court
Ian Samuel, Climenko fellow and lecturer on law at Harvard Law School; host of First Mondays, a podcast about the Supreme Court
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