Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia’s sudden death Feb. 13 won’t stop the eight remaining justices from doing their jobs, associate justice Stephen Breyer told a crowd of law students and legal scholars at a special program Feb. 25 at the Newseum.
“We’ll miss him, but we’ll do our work,” Breyer said, praising Scalia for a sharp wit, strong intellect and “absolute seriousness” about the Constitution.
The program, co-sponsored by the Freedom Forum and the Supreme Court Fellows Alumni Association, and held in the Newseum’s Annenberg Theater, was moderated by NBC News Justice correspondent Pete Williams.
Breyer explained that despite concerns about potential 4-4 split decisions with eight justices, half of the Court’s cases end in unanimous decisions, with 20 percent a year ending in 5-4 decisions.
Declaring that “judges are not politicians,” Breyer, who was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton in 1994, steered away from questions involving the Court’s 2014 decision on same-sex marriage and the current debate surrounding the nomination of a new associate justice.
“The safest thing is to say nothing,” Breyer said.
Breyer talked freely about his latest book, “The Court and the World: American Law and the New Global Realities,” which examines the Court in the context of a world of instant communication and argues that the Court must look beyond U.S. borders and at what’s going on around the world. Breyer said the book reflects part of his experience on the Court and shows how globalization affects what goes on in America’s courts.
“The best way to preserve our American values is to know what’s going on elsewhere,” he said.