Justice Stephen Breyer | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction

Justice Stephen Breyer is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States who was appointed by President Clinton in 1994; usually considered a moderate.

Justice Stephen Breyer is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. He was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1994 and is often considered to be a moderate member of the Court.

Born in San Francisco, California in 1938, Breyer attended Stanford University, where he earned his undergraduate degree in philosophy. He went on to study law at Magdalen College, Oxford, as a Rhodes Scholar and later earned his law degree from Harvard Law School.

After law school, Breyer worked as a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg and then for Justice Potter Stewart. He later served as a special assistant to the Assistant Attorney General in the Antitrust Division of the United States Department of Justice and worked as a professor at Harvard Law School.

In 1980, Breyer was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit by President Jimmy Carter. He served on that court for 14 years, including as the chief judge from 1990 to 1994.

In 1994, President Clinton nominated Breyer to the Supreme Court to fill the vacancy left by the retirement of Justice Harry Blackmun. Breyer was confirmed by the Senate with a vote of 87-9 and took his seat on the Court on August 3, 1994.

Throughout his tenure on the Court, Justice Breyer has been known for his pragmatic approach to the law and his commitment to interpreting the Constitution in light of modern realities. He has been a consistent advocate for judicial restraint and has emphasized the importance of judicial independence.

Justice Breyer has written a number of important opinions during his time on the Court. Notable cases include United States v. Booker, which addressed the constitutionality of federal sentencing guidelines, and Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, which involved the rights of detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

In recent years, Justice Breyer has been a vocal advocate for maintaining the legitimacy of the Supreme Court as an institution. He has expressed concern about the politicization of the Court and the growing perception that it is simply another partisan branch of government. In his book, “The Court and the World,” he has argued that the Supreme Court must take into account the views of other countries and international organizations when interpreting the Constitution.

Overall, Justice Breyer has had a significant impact on the Supreme Court and on American jurisprudence. His pragmatic approach to the law and his commitment to judicial independence have made him a respected and influential member of the Court.

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Last Modified: 05/05/2023

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