Retired Justice Stephen Breyer takes SCOTUS critics to task in new interview

Amid ongoing leftist outrage over the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning the landmark abortion ruling in Roe v. Wade, retired liberal Justice Stephen Breyer recently took steps to defend the institution against an onslaught of Democrat attacks on its legitimacy.

Breyer’s words on the matter came during a recent interview with journalist Chris Wallace as part of the latter’s new HBO Max series, during which the pair discussed the controversial outcome in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

Answering critics

Wallace began by mentioning recent public opinion polling regarding the high court and the potential impact that rulings such as the one in Dobbs might have on the degree of authority the electorate ascribes to the institution over time.

The host stated that in the aftermath of Dobbs, a startling 55% of respondents in a Gallup poll indicated disapproval of the manner in which the Supreme Court functions – the worst result on record.

While left-wing Democrats have used this summer’s abortion ruling as a means to argue for a partisan overhaul of the court’s composition, Breyer appeared to take umbrage at the notion that jurists ought to allow political or ideological viewpoints dictate their work on the bench.

“If you’re going to be a judge, you do not worry about popularity,” Breyer began. “You do not worry about what the general public will say by way of public opinion. And if you do that going over a very small edge here, people won’t accept your opinion. They’ll think you’re a group of politicians and there have been some bad days in the history of the court.”

Answering those on the political left who remain apoplectic over certain recent decisions from the high court, Breyer added, “And you say did I like this Dobbs decision? Of course I didn’t. Of course I didn’t. Was I happy about it? Not for an instant. Did I do everything I could to persuade people? Of course, of course.”

“But there we are”

Explaining that he had done all he could to – ultimately unsuccessfully – convince his colleagues to see his point of view on the issue of abortion, Bryer told Wallace, “[b]ut there we are and now we go on. We try to work together. I mean, it’s a little corny, but I think, but I do think it.”

Despite that spirit of collegiality, Breyer went on to caution those who remain on the bench to avoid constructing opinions “too rigidly,” contending that doing so can come back to haunt, as The Hill noted.

“You start writing too rigidly and you will see, the world will come around and bite you in the back,” the former justice warned.

“Life is complex, life changes. And we want to maintain insofar as we can – everybody does – certain key moral political values: democracy, human rights, equality, rule of law, etc. To try to do that in an ever-changing world,” Breyer mused.

Though progressive activists seeking to reconfigure the court in the wake of Dobbs may well be irritated by Breyer’s remarks to Wallace, they should not be surprised, given the justice’s previous – and indisputably wise – admonition that “it is wrong to think of the Court as another political institution…and it is doubly wrong to think of its members as junior league politicians” and that attempting to reshape institutions to fulfill current policy aims is a fool’s errand, indeed.