Breyer, a Harvard law student who also taught at the school, is the court’s oldest judge at 82. The election of President Joe Biden and the slim majority of Democrats in the Senate have meant that Breyer, appointed by Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1994, could soon retire, perhaps as early as the summer.
While he has not said anything publicly about his plans, the speech could be read as a kind of farewell speech, filled with calls for the public to see the judges as more than “youth league politicians.”
He noted, for example, that despite the court’s conservative majority, the court in the past year refrained from getting involved in the 2020 elections, gave Louisiana abortion clinics a victory, and rejected former President Donald’s effort. Trump to end legal protections for immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.
Trump appointed three justices to the court, the last of whom, Amy Coney Barrett, replaced the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg in October.
Breyer acknowledged that conservative views prevailed in other decisions.
“These considerations convince me that it is wrong to think of the Court as just another political institution,” he said.
Breyer’s speech was part of Harvard’s Scalia lecture series, named for the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Breyer and Scalia were superior court colleagues for more than two decades.