Breyer, Stephen Gerald

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Breyer, Stephen Gerald

Stephen Gerald Breyer (brī´ər), 1938–, associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1994–), b. San Francisco. A graduate of Stanford, Oxford, and Harvard Law School (1964), he clerked (1964–65) for Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg, then worked for the Justice Dept. and as chief counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee. In 1980 President Carter appointed him to the First Circuit Court of Appeals, in Boston, where he became chief judge. In the 1980s Breyer was a prominent member of the commission that drafted new federal sentencing guidelines. In 1994, when Harry Blackmun retired from the U.S. Supreme Court, Breyer was nominated by President Clinton to replace him. Though Breyer is regarded as a cautious, moderate jurist and a firm believer in judicial restraint, he has been one of the more liberal members on a Court that has grown increasinly conservative since the 1990s. He has written Active Liberty: Interpreting Our Democratic Constitution (2005), which argues that the intent of the U.S. constitution is to facilitate the citizens' ability to govern themselves effectively while protecting individual liberties, and that a judicial approach that seeks to be faithful to the original intent of the constitution by focusing on its words alone risks being unfaithful to the document's purpose. He is also the author of Making Our Democracy Work: A Judge's View (2010), which calls for jurists to be cooperative partners with Congress, the president, and other official practitioners of self-government while still fulfilling their roles as guardians of constitutional liberties. In a third book, The Court and the World: American Law and the New Global Realities (2015), Breyer argues that in an era of increased global interconnectedness, in many cases the Court must understand and take into consideration not just the American Constitution and American legal precedents but also foreign and international law.

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