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Stephen Breyer’s Misconception: The Supreme Court as Our Friend

No, Stephen Breyer, the Supreme Court Is Not Our Friend

Retired Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer authored an op-ed for The New York Times discussing camaraderie among the justices, emphasizing their friendships and collegiality, even during professional disagreements.

The article, titled “The Supreme Court I Served On Was Made Up of Friends,” recounts anecdotes of justices enjoying activities together like playing bridge and attending the opera, aiming to portray a harmonious work environment. However, Breyer’s narrative is critiqued for its lack of acknowledgment of the court’s controversial decisions, particularly those affecting vulnerable populations.

While Breyer advocates for consensus-building, he fails to address the limitations of this approach, especially in light of the court’s divisive rulings on issues such as women’s rights and voting rights. Critics argue that Breyer’s op-ed serves to distract from the court’s declining public approval and its perceived partisanship, as evidenced by recent decisions. The justices’ actions, such as weakening the Voting Rights Act and restricting reproductive rights, undermine Breyer’s idealized depiction of collegiality.

Stephen Breyer

Stephen Breyer (Credits: CNN)

The article highlights the dissonance between Breyer’s portrayal of justices as regular individuals and their role in issuing rulings that impact people’s lives profoundly. Despite efforts to humanize the justices, their decisions often prioritize legal doctrine over human rights, contributing to public disillusionment with the court’s integrity. Breyer’s emphasis on justices’ humanity fails to address the dehumanizing effects of their rulings on marginalized communities.

Breyer’s op-ed is viewed as a promotional tool for his new book, “Reading the Constitution: Why I Chose Pragmatism and not Textualism.” His writing style, characterized as earnest yet naïve, reflects a pattern seen in his previous works and judicial opinions. While appealing to a certain demographic, Breyer’s perspective disregards the real-world consequences of the court’s actions, particularly for those most affected by its decisions.

The audience for Breyer’s anecdotes is presumed to be similar to himself: older, straight, white, college-educated men, and those aspiring to their status. However, critics argue that Breyer’s detachment from the consequences of the court’s rulings limits his understanding of the broader societal implications. The op-ed fails to acknowledge the disparity between the justices’ privileged positions and the hardships faced by those impacted by their decisions.

Breyer’s op-ed attempts to portray the Supreme Court as a harmonious institution, but it overlooks the real-world consequences of its decisions. Critics argue that Breyer’s emphasis on collegiality and consensus-building obscures the court’s failures to uphold human rights and address systemic injustices. As the public scrutinizes the court’s integrity, Breyer’s idealized depiction of judicial camaraderie rings hollow in the face of its controversial rulings and their detrimental effects on vulnerable populations.

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