|Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court|
From: August 3, 1994-present
|Predecessor||Harry A. Blackmun|
|Successor||Incumbent (no successor)|
|Spouse(s)||Joanna Freda Hare|
Stephen Breyer (born August 15, 1938) is an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, and is one of the most consistent liberal votes on the court. Breyer earned undergraduate degrees from Stanford University and Magdalen College, Oxford, and received his LL.B. from Harvard Law School. In 1964 he served as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg. Following his clerkship, Breyer held several government posts, including Special Assistant to the Assistant U.S. Attorney General for Antitrust, Assistant Special Prosecutor for the Watergate Special Prosecution Force, and Special Counsel and Chief Counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. Breyer is credited with playing a key role in obtaining deregulation of the airline industry in the late 1970s. Breyer was a member of the faculty of Harvard Law School from 1967 to 1994 and the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government from 1977 to 1980.
Justice Breyer served as Judge on the First Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals from 1980 to 1990, and as Chief Judge of the First Circuit, 1990-1994.
Justice Breyer also served on the United States Sentencing Commission between 1985 and 1989, where he helped develop the federal Sentencing Guidelines to impose uniformity on sentencing in all federal criminal cases.
On issues of religion, Justice Breyer is the least liberal of the four-Justice liberal voting bloc on the Court, which also includes Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Justice Breyer broke with that voting bloc to provide the pivotal fifth vote to allow the Texas government to maintain a monument to the Ten Commandments on its capitol grounds in Van Orden v. Perry.
But on the issue of stare decisis, Justice Breyer is leading the defense against liberal precedents vulnerable to being overturned by the Roberts Court. The most prominent target among the precedents is Roe v. Wade, but many other lesser-known precedents were quickly overturned in the 2006-2007 sitting of the Roberts Court. This led Justice Breyer to declare on the last day of the term, perhaps in exasperation, "What has happened to stare decisis?" Justice Breyer dissented, on the grounds of stare decisis, from 2007 decisions in:
- Leegin Creative Leather Prods. v. PSKS, Inc.
- Parents Involved in Cmty. Schs. v. Seattle Sch. Dist. No. 1
- Morse v. Frederick
- FEC v. Wis. Right to Life, Inc. (joining Justice Souter's dissent)
According to Senator Arlen Specter, he had a chance encounter with Justice Breyer at a summer meeting after the end of the 2006-2007 term, and Specter publicly stated that Justice Breyer told him there were "eight" decisions in which the Roberts Court had overruled precedent. Specter then publicly said he was going to review the testimony provided by nominees Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Sam Alito to the Senate Judiciary Committee to see if they were abiding by it.
On the issue of continued advisory use of the controversial Sentencing Guidelines, Justice Breyer voted for preserving rather than invalidating them.
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer has alleged that the Founding Fathers never intended for guns to go unregulated. Breyer believes that the Second Amendment allows for restrictions on the individual, including an all-out ban on handguns in the nation's capital.
- Parents Involved in Cmty. Schs. v. Seattle Sch. Dist. No. 1 (2007) (Breyer, J., dissenting)
- Specter to probe Supreme Court decisions, Politico
- Breyer: Founding Fathers Would Have Allowed Restrictions on Guns, FoxNews.com, Published December 12, 2010.