Supreme Court’s Stephen Breyer still ‘optimistic’ post-abortion case

Retired Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer – who left the High Court days after a ruling that ended abortion protections – told a crowd of lawyers in Chicago on Saturday evening that he was hopeful about the American legal system.

“For a long time, we’ve had a system that, with its shortcomings, has adjusted to go the wrong way from time to time… but overall, I’m still an optimist,” Breuer said. who opposed the abortion decision.

In what is known as one of his first speeches since his retirement in June, Breyer quipped, “Why is the world so messed up?” – a line that got a lot of laughs at the American Bar Association event – when he was reminded that he had written 525 legal opinions.

Breyer, 83, did not speak directly about the abortion decision, which prompted Roe v. Wade, and neither did he address the other controversial rulings the High Court handed down this spring with their sharpest turn in recent years.

But – for the pragmatism he is known for – he spoke broadly of the importance of analyzing legal decisions by lawyers and law professors, so that when the issues come back to judges, they should ” Let me have a better idea of ​​what they are” Ve did. And they can adjust accordingly. ,

Over time, he added, “You have a growing body of theory … which we hope, as Martin Luther King (said) leads to justice. It doesn’t always happen, but we hope. And those parts of the profession working together, I think, in general, reach that direction, at least some of the time and not always.”

Breyer also said: “This is not a country of sheer ups. I mean, there was a civil war. There was 200 years of slavery, if not more, and 80 years of Jim Crow segregation in this country. ,

Breyer joined Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan on the dissenting side of June’s decision, which ended constitutional protection for abortion—a surprising reversal of a half-century legal standard that shocked the nation, even though a The draft had already emerged publicly in an unprecedented leak. ,

“With sadness – for this Court, but more than that, for the millions of American women who have lost a fundamental constitutional protection today – we protest,” they wrote.

afternoon briefing

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Breyer’s retirement took effect on June 30, just days after the abortion decision was announced. The late justice was sworn in as his successor, Federal Court of Appeals Judge Katanji Brown Jackson, the candidate for President Joe Biden.

Breyer, nominated by then-President Bill Clinton in 1994, spent nearly 28 years in court in the liberal wing of the court, although he worked on such a label. His most referenced opinion was in 2015, when a court majority upheld lethal injection. Breuer disagreed and questioned the constitutionality of the death penalty.

“For 28 years when I sat in that court, I saw people of every caste, every religion and every point of view in front of me,” he said on Saturday.

In the same week as the abortion ruling in late June, the Supreme Court also expanded gun rights, nullifying a New York law that required people to demonstrate a requirement to carry a concealed weapon. Breyer again disagreed, writing that there have been 277 mass shootings reported year after year and that his fellow judges in the majority acted “without considering the potential fatalities.” He said the ruling would make it more difficult for states to pass laws limiting the sale and use of firearms.

Breyer was the lead author of a Supreme Court opinion that upheld reproductive rights in 2000 and 2016, acknowledging in an earlier one that those who view abortion as murder and those who view it as legal, ” virtually irreplaceable”. But said the High Court has “determined and then reconfirmed that the Constitution provides basic protection to the right of women to choose.”

Saturday Breyer was awarded the ABA Medal, the Chicago-based bar association’s highest honor, which is awarded to judges and lawyers. Several Supreme Court justices have received the honor, including Oliver Wendell Holmes in 1931, Thurgood Marshall in 1992, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 2010.

The Associated Press contributed.

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