Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Justice Breyer Interview

 U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer discussed his new book, Making Our Democracy Work: A Judge's View, on NPR's Fresh Air yesterday.

Click here for a summary and audio of the full interview (warning:  it'll cost you a 0.5 nonbillable). 

A couple highlights:

On original intent:  "'Much in the Constitution is written in a very general way.  Words like 'freedom of speech' do not define themselves.  Nor does the word 'liberty.'  And what [the Framers] intended with these very basic values, in a document, [was that they] would last for hundreds of years. So they had values that changed but little, while the application of those values changes as circumstances change."

On playing at politics:  Dred Scott "'was a terrible decision.  And the only justification I've ever heard for it was that Roger Taney, the chief justice, and the majority thought that by deciding that, they would avoid the Civil War.  It happened the opposite way. They fed the flames of the Civil War. . . .  The lesson, in part, is that judges are not very good politicians.  And if you want people to decide politically, you better let Congress decide. Not the judges — we're in an institution that is to be there in order to protect people who might be very unpopular.'"