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Justice Stephen G. Breyer

Self Description

December 2005: "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."

Third-Party Descriptions

June 2013: 'The Supreme Court’s decision in Salinas encourages the kind of loosey-goosey, and easily contaminated, police questioning that led to Yarris’ wrongful conviction. Salinas may very well have been guilty of the two murders. But in many cases, as in this one, there are no eyewitnesses and not much other evidence of guilt: That is why the police may desperately need a confession. And that makes it crucial for them to handle interrogations and confessions with the utmost care. The court appreciated none of the pressures police face, and how they can squeeze an innocent suspect. Alito and the other conservatives were not troubled that there was no video to confirm that Salinas was in fact uncomfortable as well as silent. If Salinas had answered the question by exclaiming that he was innocent, could police have reported that he sounded desperate and like a liar? The court’s new ruling puts the “defendant in an impossible predicament. He must either answer the question or remain silent,” Justice Stephen Breyer said in dissent (joined by the other three liberal-moderates). “If he answers the question, he may well reveal, for example, prejudicial facts, disreputable associates, or suspicious circumstances—even if he is innocent.” But if he doesn’t answer, at trial, police and prosecutors can now take advantage of his silence, or perhaps even of just pausing or fidgeting.'

June 2013: "The vote in the California case was also 5 to 4, but with a different and very unusual alignment of justices. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote the majority opinion, and he was joined by Justice Scalia and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer and Elena Kagan. The four dissenters — Justice Kennedy and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Sonia Sotomayor — said they would have decided whether Proposition 8 was constitutional. But they did not say how they would have voted."

December 2011: 'That was an overstatement in at least two ways, Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote last year in “Making Our Democracy Work.” The Marbury decision “did not explicitly say” what Cooper had it saying, Justice Breyer wrote, and judicial supremacy did not, in any event, enjoy universal respect after Marbury.'

November 2011: 'Dreeben clarifies that the issue here is “monitoring somebody's movements in public. We are not talking about monitoring their conversations, their telephone calls, the interior of their cars, their private letters or packages.” Which sends Justice Stephen Breyer (Renaissance Festival, Omega Quadrant) into something of a Stanley Kubrick tizzy, asking about 1984 and “futuristic scenarios.” Dreeben says there is no distinction to be drawn between a 1983 case in which the Supreme Court found no Fourth Amendment violation when cops affixed a “beeper” to a chemical container in the suspect’s truck. But that case involved a single car trip. In Dreeben’s view, “Under a principle of law that says one trip is OK but 30 trips is not, there is absolutely no guidance for law enforcement.”'

June 2011: "Justice Breyer also dissented, saying the statute survived First Amendment scrutiny. He relied on studies that he said showed violent video games were positively associated with aggressive behavior."

June 2011: 'In a 5-to-4 decision that divided along ideological lines, the court said there is no automatic right to counsel for people charged with civil contempt, at least when the parent seeking to collect child support does not have a lawyer. In those circumstances, Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote for the majority, states must use “substantial procedural safeguards.”'

June 2011: "Justice Stephen G. Breyer has attended Renaissance Weekend, a retreat for politicians, artists and media personalities that is a favorite of Democrats, including former President Bill Clinton. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg participated in a symposium sponsored by the National Organization for Women’s Legal Defense and Education Fund, and a philanthropic foundation once tried to give her a $100,000 achievement award. She instructed that the money be given to charity."

June 2011: "In a dissent, Justice Stephen G. Breyer said he would have returned the case to the lower courts for further consideration of two questions: the proper interpretation of the interaction of the two assignment agreements and whether the Bayh-Dole Act should be assumed to require assignment of patent rights by employees of government contractors to their employers."

December 2010: 'Justice Stephen Breyer observes that Congress carefully balanced the interests of discouraging illegal workers and protecting minorities. And then "Arizona comes along and says: 'I'll tell you what: If you discriminate, you know what happens to you? Nothing. But if you hire an illegal immigrant, your business is dead.'" O'Grady runs into some more trouble with the court's liberals because the Arizona law requires employers to use a federal system called E-Verify to check employee immigration status, but the system was intended by the feds to be voluntary and is prone to frequent errors. Breyer points out that an employer using the system would end up firing perfectly legal workers while Ginsburg protests that "this is a federal resource, and the federal government has said, 'We want this to be voluntary.' How can Arizona set the rules on a federal resource?"'

June 2010: 'In his written dissent, which was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, Justice Breyer said the majority had been too credulous in accepting the government’s argument that national security concerns required restrictions on the challengers’ speech and had “failed to insist upon specific evidence, rather than general assertion.”'

May 2010: 'Justice Stephen G. Breyer, writing for himself and four other justices, said the clause provided Congress with the needed authority as long as the statute in question was “rationally related to the implementation of a constitutionally enumerated power.”'

April 2010: 'Justice Stephen G. Breyer said that a certain amount of personal texting was to be expected. “You want to let them have a few,” Justice Breyer said. “You need pizza when you are on duty.”'

March 2010: "Justice Stephen G. Breyer was troubled as well. Under Millett's theory, he said, suing the defense minister of a country would not be allowed, but filling in the name of the individual would bypass the restriction."

March 2010: 'Justices John Paul Stevens and Stephen G. Breyer, on the losing side in Heller, were unwilling to give up the fight. Stevens wondered if a limited Second Amendment right could be applied to the states, so that ownership in the home was protected, as opposed to "the right to parade around the streets with guns."'

February 2010: "On Tuesday, the court ruled 7 to 2 that a version of the Miranda warning that Florida police used was valid, even though it did not specifically tell a suspect that his attorney could be present during questioning. Over the objections of Stevens and Justice Stephen G. Breyer, the court said the version conveyed the relevant information."

July 2008: 'In June of last year, a conservative majority of the Supreme Court, in a 5-to-4 decision, declared the racial-integration efforts of two school districts unconstitutional. Seattle and Louisville, Ky., could no longer assign students to schools based on their race, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in his lead opinion in Meredith v. Jefferson County School Board (and its companion case, Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1). Justice Stephen Breyer sounded a sad and grim note of dissent. Pointing out that the court was rejecting student-assignment plans that the districts had designed to stave off de facto resegregation, Breyer wrote that “to invalidate the plans under review is to threaten the promise of Brown.” By invoking Brown v. Board of Education, the court’s landmark 1954 civil rights ruling, Breyer accused the majority of abandoning a touchstone in the country’s efforts to overcome racial division. “This is a decision that the court and the nation will come to regret,” he concluded.'

June 2008: 'Justice Stephen G. Breyer, one of the dissenters in the 5-to-4 decision, surveyed a quite substantial body of empirical research on whether gun control laws do any good. Then he wrote: “The upshot is a set of studies and counterstudies that, at most, could leave a judge uncertain about the proper policy conclusion.”'

June 2008: "The death penalty is not a proportional punishment for the rape of a child, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the court. He was joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer."

June 2008: "In dissenting Thursday, Justice Clarence Thomas said that, while he thought the Second Circuit was wrong in putting the burden on workers, other elements of the case required him to support its judgment. Justice Stephen G. Breyer did not take part in the case, apparently because his private investments would have created a conflict."

June 2008: 'In vacating the $79.5 million verdict and remanding the case to the Oregon Supreme Court, the US Supreme Court offered some guidance to the Oregon justices. Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for the five-justice majority: "Because the Oregon Supreme Court's application of the correct standard may lead to a new trial, or a change in the level of the punitive damages award, this court will not consider the question whether the award is constitutionally 'grossly excessive.' "'

March 2008: 'The federal government and 19 states have joined Indiana in urging the court to find that government should be able to set a higher standard for whether a defendant may represent himself than simply whether he has been judged competent to stand trial....Justice Stephen G. Breyer seemed an advocate of letting judges find a way to make sure the mentally ill were represented. "Very disturbed people are being deprived and end up in prison because they're disturbed rather than because they're guilty," he said.'

September 2001: "But the opinion in June, written by Justice Stephen G. Breyer, seemed to anticipate the current questions about when added powers might be given to immigration officials. In the case before it, Justice Breyer wrote, the court did not have to consider broader questions that were not presented by the case."

March 2008: 'In an opinion last year, Justice Stephen G. Breyer called for the Saucier decision to be overruled as a “failed experiment.” His opinion came in the “Bong Hits for Jesus” case, in which the court struggled to decide whether a high school principal had violated a student’s First Amendment right to free speech by suspending him for displaying a 14-foot banner bearing those words.'

February 2008: '“I don’t know why they call this statute ‘Laundering of Monetary Instruments,’ ” Justice Stephen G. Breyer, referring to the set of provisions at issue. “Why didn’t they call it ‘shoe hiding’?”'

February 2008: 'In 1969, it found in Sullivan v. Little Hunting Park that retaliation was covered by another federal law derived from the 1866 act, even though the word itself was not specifically mentioned. Neither is the right to sue, Justice Stephen G. Breyer noted last week, but the court recognized that it was necessary "to make the statute effective."'

January 2008: 'A couple of weeks ago, the United States Supreme Court said the Constitution had nothing to say about the way New York elects its judges. But several justices went out of their way to question the practice of electing judges. Justices Anthony M. Kennedy and Stephen G. Breyer said, for instance, that campaign fund-raising in judicial elections might be at odds “with the perception and the reality of judicial independence and judicial excellence.”'

January 2008: '"I'm at sea," Justice Stephen G. Breyer told Washington lawyer Donald B. Verrilli Jr., who represents the inmates in the case. "You claim that this is somehow more painful than some other method. But which? And what's the evidence for that?"'

January 2008: "Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, joined by Justice Stephen G. Breyer, wrote separately to express the hope that better ways of picking jurists will evolve, and to emphasize their concern over the shabby clubhouse practices that sometimes accompany the process now."

March 2005: Justice Stephen Breyer seemingly wants to decide these disputes case by case, and he suggests that the Texas monument isn't all that divisive. (Hello? Justice Breyer? Roy Moore?)

September 2006: Separately, a panel headed by Justice Stephen G. Breyer released a report acknowledging that judges failed to properly investigate complaints of misconduct by colleagues in five of 17 'high visibility cases' between 2001 and 2005 -- an error rate the report called 'far too high.'

April 2005: Several justices, most prominently Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, favor drawing on such sources for nonbinding input, arguing that it improves the court's decisions and helps foreign courts establish their own legitimacy. Thomas and Justice Antonin Scalia oppose the use of foreign law, arguing that the Supreme Court is competent only to rule on the U.S. Constitution and statutes.


RoleNameTypeLast Updated
Employee/Contractor/Fellow/Freelancer (past or present) Student/Trainee (past or present) Harvard University Organization Dec 21, 2005
Employee/Contractor/Fellow/Freelancer (past or present) Kennedy School of Government, The John F. (KSG) Organization Dec 21, 2005
Student/Trainee (past or present) Oxford University/University of Oxford Organization Dec 21, 2005
Student/Trainee (past or present) Stanford University Organization Dec 21, 2005
Employee/Contractor/Fellow/Freelancer (past or present) US Senate Organization Dec 21, 2005
Supervisor of (past or present) Prof. Akhil Reed Amar Esq. Person Jun 5, 2005
Subordinate of (past or present) Justice Arthur Goldberg Esq. Person Dec 21, 2005
Supervisor of (past or present) Prof. Neal Katyal Esq. Person Jan 16, 2007
Supervisor of (past or present) Prof. Alexander A. Reinert Esq. Person May 20, 2009
Cooperation (past or present) Prof. Cass R. Sunstein Esq. Person Feb 23, 2008
Supervisor of (past or present) Prof. Timothy Wu Esq. Person Jan 27, 2006

Articles and Resources

101 Articles and Resources. Go to:  [Next 20]   [End]

Date Resource Read it at:
Jun 26, 2013 Supreme Court Bolsters Gay Marriage With Two Major Rulings

QUOTE: In a pair of major victories for the gay rights movement, the Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that married same-sex couples were entitled to federal benefits and, by declining to decide a case from California, effectively allowed same-sex marriages there. The rulings leave in place laws banning same-sex marriage around the nation, and the court declined to say whether there was a constitutional right to such unions.

New York Times
Jun 25, 2013 Supreme Court Invalidates Key Part of Voting Rights Act

QUOTE: The Supreme Court on Tuesday effectively struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by a 5-to-4 vote, freeing nine states, mostly in the South, to change their election laws without advance federal approval. The court divided along ideological lines, and the two sides drew sharply different lessons from the history of the civil rights movement and the nation’s progress in rooting out racial discrimination in voting. At the core of the disagreement was whether racial minorities continued to face barriers to voting in states with a history of discrimination.

New York Times
Jun 19, 2013 You Don’t Have the Right to Remain Silent: The Supreme Court’s terrible—and dangerous—ruling this week on the Fifth Amendment.

QUOTE: the Supreme Court held that you remain silent at your peril. The court said that this is true even before you’re arrested, when the police are just informally asking questions. The court’s move to cut off the right to remain silent is wrong and also dangerous—because it encourages the kind of high-pressure questioning that can elicit false confessions.

Dec 19, 2011 Among Legal Ranks, Shrugs for Gingrich’s Tough Talk

QUOTE: Many of Mr. Gingrich’s proposals would replace the judicial independence generally thought to be a defining feature of the federal system with aspects of the political accountability associated with state judicial elections.

New York Times
Nov 08, 2011 Which Way Privacy? The Supreme Court asks whether the government can put a GPS device on your car without a warrant.

QUOTE: The warrant expired after 10 days, but the police nevertheless used the GPS to monitor everywhere he drove, every 10 seconds, for 28 days....Jones tried to have his conviction set aside, arguing that warrantless GPS surveillance violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free of unreasonable government searches and seizures. The government replied that GPS tracking is no different from police observing activity in public spaces and roadways, which is not protected under the Constitution.

Jun 27, 2011 Justices Reject Ban on Violent Video Games for Children

QUOTE: Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for five justices in the majority in the video games decision, Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association, No. 08-1448, said video games were subject to full First Amendment protection. “Like the protected books, plays and movies that preceded them, video games communicate ideas — and even social messages — through many familiar literary devices (such as characters, dialogue, plot and music) and through features distinctive to the medium...

New York Times
Jun 20, 2011 Court Issues Split Ruling on Poor’s Right to Counsel

QUOTE: In a 5-to-4 decision that divided along ideological lines, the court said there is no automatic right to counsel for people charged with civil contempt, at least when the parent seeking to collect child support does not have a lawyer.

New York Times
Jun 18, 2011 Friendship of Justice and Magnate Puts Focus on Ethics

QUOTE: The publicity-shy friend turned out to be Harlan Crow, a Dallas real estate magnate and a major contributor to conservative causes. Mr. Crow stepped in to finance the multimillion-dollar purchase and restoration of the cannery, featuring a museum about the culture and history of Pin Point that has become a pet project of Justice Thomas’s. The project throws a spotlight on an unusual, and ethically sensitive, friendship that appears to be markedly different from those of other justices on the nation’s highest court.

New York Times
Jun 06, 2011 Supreme Court Rules for Drug Firm in a Patent Dispute

QUOTE: The “general rule,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority in a 7-to-2 decision, is that “rights in an invention belong to the inventor,” even if created on an employer’s watch.

New York Times
Jan 18, 2011 In Knotty State Secrets Case, Justices Ponder Telling Litigants to ‘Go Away’

QUOTE: The contractors sued, asking to keep the money and seeking $1.2 billion more. They said their work had been frustrated by the government’s failure to share classified technology. The government disputed that, but would not explain why, invoking the state secrets privilege.

New York Times
Dec 08, 2010 LAWA Land: The Supreme Court hears about Arizona's other controversial immigration law.

QUOTE: The Supreme Court busies itself today with that law's Mini-Me, the 2007 Legal Arizona Workers Act, which goes much further than federal immigration law in sanctioning state employers who hire illegal workers. Both today's case and the one the court will inevitably hear about SB 1070 test the same general proposition: Does federal immigration law pre-empt—or preclude—the states from passing their own, tougher immigration laws?

Jun 28, 2010 Justices Rule Against Group That Excludes Gay Students

QUOTE: A public law school did not violate the First Amendment by withdrawing recognition from a Christian student group that excluded gay students, the Supreme Court ruled...

New York Times
Jun 24, 2010 Justices Limit Use of ‘Honest Services’ Law Against Fraud

QUOTE: The justices were unanimous in calling a broad interpretation of the law, which makes it a crime “to deprive another of the intangible right of honest services,” unconstitutionally vague.

New York Times
Jun 21, 2010 Court Affirms Ban on Aiding Groups Tied to Terror

QUOTE: In a case pitting free speech against national security, the Supreme Court on Monday upheld a federal law that makes it a crime to provide “material support” to foreign terrorist organizations, even if the help takes the form of training for peacefully resolving conflicts.

New York Times
May 18, 2010 Supreme Court restricts life without parole for juveniles

QUOTE: Juveniles may not be sentenced to life in prison without parole for any crime short of homicide, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday, expanding its command that young offenders must be treated differently from adults even for heinous crimes.

Washington Post
May 17, 2010 Extended Civil Commitment of Sex Offenders Is Upheld

QUOTE: In a broad endorsement of federal power, the Supreme Court on Monday ruled that Congress has the authority under the Constitution to allow the continued civil commitment of sex offenders after they have completed their criminal sentences. The 7-to-2 decision touched off a heated debate among the justices on a question that has lately engaged the Tea Party movement and opponents of the new health care law: What limits does the Constitution impose on Congress’s power to legislate on matters not specifically delegated to it in Article I?

New York Times
Apr 19, 2010 Justices Get Personal Over Privacy of Messages

QUOTE: The question in a case argued Monday in the Supreme Court sounded both irresistible and important: Did a California police department violate the Constitution by reading sexually explicit text messages sent by an officer on a department-issued pager?

New York Times
Mar 04, 2010 Somali official's immunity case raises legal, policy issues

QUOTE: The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) protects foreign states and their "agencies and instrumentalities" from lawsuits, with a few limited exceptions. But the Torture Victim Protection Act authorizes lawsuits, and was passed specifically to ensure that those "who avail themselves of the protections and privileges of residency in the United States also bear responsibility for their actions, especially actions as significant as torture," according to a brief filed by its congressional sponsors.

Washington Post
Mar 03, 2010 Supreme Court does more wrangling with gun laws

QUOTE: The same members of the Supreme Court who ruled two years ago that the Second Amendment provides an individual right to own a firearm seemed ready Tuesday to ensure that state and local gun-control laws do not interfere with it. But a majority also indicated that the states may have "broader interests" in restricting gun ownership than the federal government.

Washington Post
Feb 25, 2010 Supreme Court rules that request for lawyer in questioning has expiration

QUOTE: A suspect's request that a lawyer be present before submitting to police questioning does not last forever, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday. In fact, 14 days is long enough for police to wait before taking the alleged perpetrator into custody again and attempting another interrogation.

Washington Post

101 Articles and Resources. Go to:  [Next 20]   [End]