Retired Supreme Court Justice Sends Warning About Future Of The Court

By Victor Winston, updated on March 19, 2024

Stephen Breyer, a figure known for his pragmatic approach to the Constitution, has voiced his concerns about the current direction of the United States Supreme Court.

Retired Associate Justice Stephen Breyer has launched a critical analysis of the Supreme Court's trajectory, focusing on the justices appointed by Donald Trump and their decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the Western Journal reported.

His concerns were shared in an interview with The New York Times and are elaborated upon in his upcoming book, "Reading the Constitution: Why I Chose Pragmatism, Not Textualism." In these outlets, Breyer, who left the bench in 2022, provides a thoughtful critique not just of the Court's decision but also of the broader interpretive strategies of textualism and originalism that, in his view, have guided recent judicial decisions.

Breyer's Book Critiques Supreme Court's New Path

Stephen Breyer's tenure on the Supreme Court extended nearly 26 years, having been nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1994. His retirement paved the way for Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson's appointment.

Throughout his service, Breyer has been recognized for his commitment to a pragmatic interpretation of the Constitution—a stance that has increasingly set him apart from the Court's current direction under the influence of justices nominated by former President Trump.

In his remarks, Breyer expressed apprehension about the implications of reversing Roe v. Wade, a landmark decision that had affirmed a woman's right to choose an abortion. The decision's reversal, Breyer suggests, raises complex legal and moral questions that state legislatures may not be equipped to address adequately.

The Dobbs majority’s hope that legislatures and not courts will decide the abortion question will not be realized. Are they going to allow women to die on the table because they won’t allow an abortion which would save her life? I mean, no one would do that. And they wouldn’t do that. And there’ll be dozens of questions like that.

Concerns Over Constitutional Interpretation and Its Consequences

Without directly naming them, Stephen Breyer hinted at the justices appointed by Trump—Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett—encouraging them to reconsider their approach to constitutional interpretation.

His critique extends to the methodologies of textualism and originalism, questioning their capacity to address contemporary issues effectively and their disregard for the evolution of societal values.

Breyer's critique is poignant. He argues that originalisms, like textualisms, neglect the practical consequences of their rulings and fail to acknowledge the dynamism of societal values. This, he posits, is a fundamental flaw in their approach to constitutional interpretation.

From the Bench to Academia: Breyer’s Continued Influence

Now teaching at Harvard Law School, Stephen Breyer reflects on his transition from Supreme Court Justice to educator. Despite his fondness for the bench, his current role allows him to shape future legal minds, though it's a different kind of influence compared to that wielded by a Supreme Court Justice.

In conclusion, Stephen Breyer's critique, as shared in his upcoming book and The New York Times interview, significantly reflects on the Supreme Court's direction, the methodologies governing constitutional interpretation, and the practical implications of such approaches.

His perspective is not just that of a retired justice but of an educator concerned with the future of judicial interpretation and its impact on American society. His commentary invites a broader dialogue on how the Constitution should be read and understood in an ever-evolving society.

About Victor Winston

Victor is a freelance writer and researcher who focuses on national politics, geopolitics, and economics.

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