Tags: Supreme Court | Stephen Breyer | Justices | Supreme Court | Junior League | Politicians

Justice Breyer: Supreme Court Justices Are Not 'Junior League Politicians'

(MSNBC/"Morning Joe")

By    |   Monday, 24 Oct 2016 11:11 AM

Supreme Court justices are not a type of "junior league politicians," even though both presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have spoken about the standards they seek when it comes to nominating new people for the nation's top court, Justice Stephen Breyer said Monday.

"[Justice Oliver Wendell] Holmes once said, a great justice, it's 'like being at the center of a hurricane in that the center is calm,'" Breyer told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program. "What goes on outside, well, those are things we can't control. Politics is something I can't control. And I'm not involved."

However, there is a "very much" related line of thought that Breyer said does bother him, and that's the perception about justices.

"It has been the same for the last five, six, seven years and maybe longer, is when I speak to a group of law students, I know what's on their mind, and I'll bring it out," he said. "They think you nine are a group of junior league politicians. And I say that's very bad for the court, and by the way, it isn't true."

It generally takes about an hour to bring the students around, said Breyer, and he believes if there is one problem that affects him and others in public life, it's the lack of understanding about the Supreme Court's role.

Breyer said he wrote his book, "The Court and the World: American Law and the New Global Realities" which is now out in paperback, and others to try to get people to understand how the Supreme Court works.

Meanwhile, the court has eight justices, following the death of Antonin Scalia, but its mechanics work "about the same," said Breyer and there is usually not a problem when it comes to tie votes.

"The court, when it began at the time of the Constitution's writing, had six members for several years" said Breyer, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1994. "They had 10 members for several years after the Civil War. They functioned with an even number of members."

Also, he continued, half the court's cases are determined unanimously, with just around 20 percent decided on a 5-4 split decision.

"And it isn't the same five and the same four," said Breyer. "I know that your profession believes they're all the most important, but for the average person, I would say some are pretty important, of course. But I would say a lot of those unanimous cases are also very, very important."

Breyer also rejected a hypothetical question over whether Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg would recuse herself from some cases because of her comments about Trump.

"You would have to ask her," he said. "I don't know that it does much good to talk about hypotheticals. When a case comes to the court, people file a brief, they write briefs. We read them, we have oral arguments and make up our minds. The inside story of a court is normally there is no inside story. Pretty much what you see is what you get."

Meanwhile, Breyer said he misses Scalia, who died in February.

"What I miss the most, he was a friend," said Breyer. "And he was fun. Sometimes we would sit there at oral argument and I knew I was going to say something that he wouldn't be too happy with, and he knew I would, and vice versa."

One of the best things he and the late judge did together was to speak to about 2,000 students in Lubbock, Texas, discussing their different philosophies and what goes on in the court.

"I think every one of those students left with a feeling that we were friends, that we were professionals, that we had a view of the cases, that the court does its job, and I think, and I hope that they went away with a slightly higher opinion of this American institution," said Breyer.

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Supreme Court justices are not a type of "junior league politicians," even though both presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have spoken about the standards they seek when it comes to nominating new people for the nation's top court...
Stephen Breyer, Justices, Supreme Court, Junior League, Politicians
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2016-11-24
Monday, 24 Oct 2016 11:11 AM
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