Justice Stephen Breyer

Justice Breyer’s Remarks at the 2015 Jorde Symposium September 24, 2015


Presented at the Brennan Center Jorde Symposium on September 24, 2015 (University of California, Berkeley).

This book—what’s it about? Why did I write it? When I hear the words “interdependent,” “globalization,” “a shrinking world,” I think they range between clichés on the one hand and buzzwords on the other—but they aren’t quite concrete. I thought it might be helpful to write very concretely about what these words mean in terms of the life of a Supreme Court justice. What have they meant at the Court? When I look back and compare twenty years ago to today, I think we have many more cases where those words concretely make a big difference.

I’ve listed four or five categories of cases and discussed them in an effort to try to focus on what problems they raise now. I can give you a few examples. One of them that is of interest to people is a traditional problem that goes back thousands of years: we have security needs. In our context, the Constitution delegates the security authority almost entirely to the President and to the Congress, not to the judges. Well, what happens when security conflicts with civil liberties, because the Constitution delegates significant power in that area to judges? What are judges supposed to do when they conflict?