Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer: Part 1 of Law360's Exclusive Interview

Posted on 07-13-2017 by
Tags: Justice Stephen Breyer , Supreme Court

Justice Stephen Breyer

Justice Breyer said, "You only have a rule of law if courts are willing to protect people who are very unpopular.” 


By Sindhu Sundar

It’s a week before the end of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2016 term, and Justice Stephen Breyer is busy in his chambers. Writing, of course.

It’s a week in which Justice Breyer, along with his colleagues, agreed to hear whether state legislatures can engineer voting districts in a historic partisan gerrymandering case and whether bakers can invoke religious beliefs or artistic freedom to refuse to serve same-sex weddings. A week in which they granted requests to review what protections whistleblowers deserve under Dodd-Frank and whether sports betting should be legal.

 But all of that was overshadowed by the court’s decision on June 26 to uphold part of President Donald Trump’s travel ban and to hear this fall whether his second executive order restricting travelers entry to the U.S. from six Muslim-majority countries is unconstitutional.

The case brings to the forefront the power struggle between the executive branch and the judiciary over issues of national security, a question that Justice Breyer has spent years pondering and which forms a core part of his judicial philosophy.   


“The role of courts during wartime is to continue to do what they do in peacetime,” he told Law360. “The content of the law might change, but the need for the law is no less. That differentiates the democracies of today from dictatorships and authoritarian regimes.”

In a recent interview with Law360, Justice Breyer reflected on some of the Supreme Court’s weaker moments in history and emphasized the court’s role as an essential check against the arbitrary flexing of executive power at the expense of civil liberties.

Law360 subscribers can read the full interview with Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.

Law360 subscribers can also read Law360's exclusive interviews with Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg Part 1 and Part 2, Sonia Sotomayor Part 1 and Part 2 and John Paul Stevens Part 1 and Part 2.   

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