Stephen Breyer

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[I]t's a kind of miracle when you sit there [on the bench] and see all of those people . . . that are so different in what they think [who have] decided to help solve their major differences under law. And when the students [I speak to] get too cynical, I say, "Go look at what happens in countries that don't do that."
People have come to accept this Constitution . . . [It created a country that is] an experiment that's still going on. You know who will see whether that experiment works? It's you, my friend. . . . It's that next generation, and the one after that - my grandchildren and their children. . . . And, of course, I am an optimist. . . . I'm pretty sure it will.

Stephen Breyer (born August 15, 1938) is an American lawyer and jurist who served as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1994 to 2022. He was nominated by President Bill Clinton, and replaced retiring justice Harry Blackmun. Upon retirement, he was replaced by one of his former clerks, Ketanji Brown Jackson. Breyer was associated with the liberal wing of the Court.

Quotes[edit]

  • Even laws enacted for broad and ambitious purposes often can be explained by reference to legitimate public policies which justify the incidental disadvantages they impose on certain persons. Amendment 2, however, in making a general announcement that gays and lesbians shall not have any particular protections from the law, inflicts on them immediate, continuing, and real injuries that outrun and belie any legitimate justifications that may be claimed for it. We conclude that, in addition to the far-reaching deficiencies of Amendment 2 that we have noted, the principles it offends, in another sense, are conventional and venerable; a law must bear a rational relationship to a legitimate governmental purpose, Kadrmas v. Dickinson Public Schools, 487 U. S. 450, 462 (1988), and Amendment 2 does not.
    • Majority opinion in Romer v. Evans (decided 20 May, 1996), 517 U.S. 620, 635, joined by Associate Justices Stevens, O'Connor, Souter, Ginsburg, Breyer
  • [S]omething I enjoy is talking to [all kinds of students]. And they'll . . . ask me . . . "What is it you find particularly meaningful about your job?" . . . [W]hat I say to them is: Look, I sit there on the bench, and after we hear lots of cases [it becomes apparent that this] is a complicated country; there are more than 330 million people. And my mother used to say, "It's every race. It's every religion." And she would emphasize this: "And it's every point of view possible." . . . [I]t's a kind of miracle when you sit there and see all of those people in front of you - people that are so different in what they think. And yet, they've decided to help solve their major differences under law. And when the students [I speak to] get too cynical, I say, "Go look at what happens in countries that don't do that."
  • I take this around at my job. (Holds up a copy of the US Constitution.) People have come to accept this Constitution, and they've come to accept the importance of a rule of law. And [I] say: Look, of course people don't agree, but we have a country that is based on human rights, democracy, and so forth. . . . I'll tell you what Lincoln thought, what Washington thought, and what people today still think: It's an experiment. . . . It's an experiment that's still going on. You know who will see whether that experiment works? It's you, my friend. . . . It's that next generation, and the one after that - my grandchildren and their children. They'll determine whether the experiment still works. And, of course, I am an optimist. . . . I'm pretty sure it will.

Quotes about Breyer[edit]

  • Today, Justice Breyer announces his intention to step down from active service after four decades . . . on the federal bench and 28 years on the United States Supreme Court. His legacy includes his work as a leading scholar and jurist in administrative law [and] his stature as a beacon of wisdom on our Constitution and what it means. . . . He’s written landmark opinions on topics ranging from reproductive rights to healthcare, to voting rights, to patent laws, to laws protecting our environment, and the laws that protect our religious practices. His opinions are practical, sensible, and nuanced. . . . Justice Breyer’s law clerks and his colleagues . . . describe him and his work ethic - his desire to learn more, his kindness to those around him, and his optimism for the promise of our country. . . . Justice Breyer has been everything his country could have asked of him.

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External links[edit]

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