September 25, 2022


Instead, the 83-year-old retired judge spoke broadly about the rule of law and maintained that he remains optimistic overall.

“I think that for long periods of time we’ve had in America a system that’s adapted — with its flaws and its missteps from time to time,” he said.

Where state abortion bans are in the midst of legal challenges

“But overall, I’m still optimistic,” Breyer added.

Breyer made no mention of the string of losses for liberals at the end of last term on abortion, gun rights, the environment and religious freedom. Instead, addressing an audience of lawyers attending an American Bar Association conference in Chicago, he repeated tropes from previous speeches and told the audience that the work of the ABA, and lawyers in general, is important.

He said judges “need the help from abroad,” even if they think they don’t.

Breyer repeated a story about assurances he gave to a visiting judge from a foreign country several years ago about the rule of law. She said he told her about Bush v. Gore — the controversial Supreme Court decision that decided the 2000 presidential election — and how then-Democratic Sen. Harry Reid once pointed out that after the opinion was released there were no riots in the streets.
“What Reid said,” Breyer said, is that you might know you have the rule of law “when enough people are prepared to accept a view that affects them personally and that they don’t like.” (Breyer made no mention of recent events, including the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol.)

“This was not a country of pure reputation,” Breyer told the visiting judge.

Democrats are wasting no time seizing the abortion issue

“There was a civil war, there was slavery, 80 years of Jim Crow segregation,” Breyer said broadly. “But we’re gradually trying… if this generation doesn’t do it, the next one can.”

Breyer began his speech with a joke after being praised for writing more than 500 opinions from the bench. “I have a question about your introduction,” he said. “You said I’ve written 525 opinions — but why are people so crap?” he said laughing.



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