I recently had the opportunity to interview U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. He was in town to make an appearance at the IIT Chicago Kent College of Law and to promote his book, Making Our Democracy Work: A Judge’s View. The book deals with two main issues: how the public has come to accept the Court’s decision-making role as legitimate and what the Court can do to continue to merit the public’s confidence. The book is beautifully written — clear and accessible to a general audience. I recommend it; it offers compelling insights into the mind of a judge who appears to be at the top of his game.
But the real pleasure came in encountering the Justice himself. He was incredibly smart, articulate in a very accessible way and witty. But what really struck me about him is what a grownup he was. One of the points he made — and with passion — is that even though he’s been in the minority in several major cases, it is important to keep in mind that there are two sides to every case and that many decisions are closer than people might imagine. And he emphasized the importance of deciding the most contentious issues in the calmest possible way.
When one looks at the vitriol that is emanating from Washington, it was not only refreshing to hear someone so committed to a reasoned and civil approach to democracy, it was downright inspiring. He speaks eloquently about his regard for the Constitution, the country and its institutions and the sense that we are all in it together. And, as a member of the Court’s so-called liberal wing, he sincerely seems to hold no animus towards the conservative justices who currently hold sway. He’s clearly a big-picture person who loves this country. What a patriot. What a privilege to have interviewed him. Click the links below to watch the interviews.