Justice Stephen Breyer discusses role of Supreme Court

Nov 17, 2010

Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer delivered the Cecil Sims Lecture at Vanderbilt Law School on November 16.

In his lecture, Justice Breyer sought to demystify the purpose and workings of the Supreme Court and discussed themes in his newly released book, Making Our Democracy Work: A Judge’s View. In addition to delivering the Sims lecture, Justice Breyer taught a Regulatory State class and met with students and faculty during his day at the law school.

See a video of Justice Breyer’s lecture

Justice Breyer earned his LL.B. at Harvard Law School after earning an A.B. from Stanford University and a B.A. from Magdalen College, Oxford, England. Following law school, he served as a law clerk to Justice Arthur Goldberg of the Supreme Court of the United States during the 1964 term. He then joined the U.S. Attorney General’s staff as a Special Assistant to the Assistant U.S. Attorney General for Antitrust, where he worked from 1965–67.

Justice Breyer joined the faculty of Harvard Law School in 1967 as an assistant professor; he was made a professor in 1970 and taught administrative law at Harvard full-time until 1980, when he was appointed to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. He was also a professor at the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government from 1977–80, and a Visiting Professor at the College of Law, Sydney, Australia in 1975, and at the University of Rome in 1993. As a legal scholar, he contributed numerous articles to legal journals addressing issues of administrative law and economic regulation.

Justice Breyer was appointed a judge on the First Circuit Court of Appeals in 1980, and continued to teach at Harvard as a lecturer in law until his appointment by President Bill Clinton to the Supreme Court in 1994. Justice Breyer served both as Chief Judge of the First Circuit Court of Appeals and as a member of the Judicial Conference of the United States from 1990–94. He was a member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission from 1985–89.

Justice Breyer’s most recent book, Making Our Democracy Work: A Judge’s View, was released by Knopf in September 2010. Knopf also published his 2005 book, Active Liberty: Interpreting Our Democratic Constitution, in which Justice Breyer argued that the judiciary should seek to resolve issues to encourage popular participation in governmental decisions.

The Cecil Sims Lecture Series honors Cecil Sims, a 1914 first-honor graduate of Vanderbilt Law School and a founding member of the Nashville-based firm of Bass Berry & Sims.


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