‘It’s highly professional’: Justice Breyer explains how SCOTUS justices keep it cordial on hot topics

The U.S. Supreme Court will address a number of controversial subjects in the months to come, with cases touching on abortion, gun rights, and campaign finance laws, some of which could result in landmark decisions that will have a profound effect on America for decades to come.

Yet, despite the contentious issues at hand, the honorable justices on the high court have a reputation for maintaining cordial relations with one another, even when it involves white-hot political topics. Recently, Justice Stephen Breyer revealed the secret of how SCOTUS maintains the highest professional standards. 

“What happens is it’s highly professional,” Breyer explained during an interview with CNN’s Joan Biskupic last week, according to Indiana’s ABC 57.

“People go around the table,” Justice Breyer continued. “They discuss the question in the case…the chief justice and Justice [Clarence] Thomas and me and so forth around. People say what they think. And they say it politely, and they say it professionally.”

“It’s not like Congress”

Breyer went on to recall the advice offered by one of his predecessors, saying, “Sandra O’Connor told me there are two unwritten rules that are probably as important as any that are written.”

“The first one is that in the conference no one speaks twice until everyone has spoken once,” he told Biskupic. “I was a junior justice for 11 years and I spoke last, and so that was a rule that was very favorable to me. But everybody feels you’ve been treated fairly.”

“The second rule,” Breyer added, “is no trading of votes.” He stressed that in this way, the conventions of the judicial branch are distinct from those of the legislative, remarking, “It’s not like Congress.”

The 83-year-old justice did not address recent recommendations made by President Joe Biden’s Supreme Court commission, but signaled disagreement with the suggestion some have made that SCOTUS justices should make open to the public their discussions concerning which cases they choose to hear.

No court-packing?

“Transparency is usually a word that means something good, but I would say about the conference, it’s important not to have transparency,” Breyer said.

The liberal justice added: “It is very important for people to say what they really think about these cases, and that’s what happens. So I worry about changing that and somehow bringing the public into the conference.”

Fox News revealed last week many on the political left are disappointed that Biden’s commission is leaning toward not adding justices to the Supreme Court, a practice known as “court-packing,” which has been heavily suggested by a number of high-profile progressives as a measure to even out the current high court’s conservative majority.

Earlier this year, when the topic dominated news headlines, Fox reported that Justice Breyer forcefully came out against the idea, warning such an extreme move could “affect the rule of law itself.”

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