Stephen Breyer has served on the Supreme Court of the United States since 1994. In his new book, “The Authority of the Court and the Peril of Politics,” Justice Breyer reflects on his tenure and the historical evolution of the Supreme Court’s authority. Breyer joins Washington Post columnist David Ignatius to discuss his call for reviving civics education in schools and his belief that encouraging citizens to participate in public life will bolster confidence in government.

Highlights

“I’m not going to stay there¬–I hope– until I die. And I have been thinking about it. And there are a lot of different factors that come into account… I believe I can take those considerations into account and then when I’m ready to announce something I will.” (Washington Post Live)
The Justice said if one party tampers with the structure of the court while in power, it opens the door for the other party to do the same, and could risk the public’s confidence in the institution. “It’s risky changing the structure. It’s risky, for if one party can change the structure to add more favorable people then the other part can do the same. The risk of course is that the public in general will become less convinced that it’s being decided as a matter of law.” (Washington Post Live)
Justice Breyer also said justices on the court are not ‘junior league politicians,’ implying that the decisions they make are not compelled by political persuasion. “I did think it was very wrong, and I wrote a dissent… But the single most important point is that judges are not junior league politicians, they’re judges.” (Washington Post Live)
Asked about a speech in which the court’s newest justice Amy Coney Barrett emphasized that members of the court rule by judicial philosophies and not personal political opinion, Justice Breyer said it’s important for the judges to see their decisions involving all people regardless of political persuasion. “It takes some years and then you gradually pick up the mores of the institution. And the mores of the institution – You’re a judge. You better be there for everybody, not just the Democrats or Republicans… Even if a Democrat or Republican appointed you.” (Washington Post Live)
On Sept. 13, 2021, Supreme Court justice Stephen G. Breyer said it took a long time to build public trust in the court, and that such trust remains fragile. (Washington Post Live)

Justice Stephen G. Breyer

Stephen G. Breyer, Associate Justice, was born in San Francisco, California, August 15, 1938. He married Joanna Hare in 1967, and has three children - Chloe, Nell, and Michael. He received an A.B. from Stanford University, a B.A. from Magdalen College, Oxford, and an LL.B. from Harvard Law School. He served as a law clerk to Justice Arthur Goldberg of the Supreme Court of the United States during the 1964 Term, as a Special Assistant to the Assistant U.S. Attorney General for Antitrust, 1965–1967, as an Assistant Special Prosecutor of the Watergate Special Prosecution Force, 1973, as Special Counsel of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, 1974–1975, and as Chief Counsel of the committee, 1979–1980. He was an Assistant Professor, Professor of Law, and Lecturer at Harvard Law School, 1967–1994, a Professor at the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government, 1977–1980, and a Visiting Professor at the College of Law, Sydney, Australia and at the University of Rome. From 1980–1990, he served as a Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, and as its Chief Judge, 1990–1994. He also served as a member of the Judicial Conference of the United States, 1990–1994, and of the United States Sentencing Commission, 1985–1989. President Clinton nominated him as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, and he took his seat August 3, 1994.