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Supreme Court

Justice Breyer Warns Against Expanding SCOTUS (UPDATED)

A liberal justice throws cold water on a pet progressive cause


Associate Justice Stephen Breyer warned against expanding the size of the Supreme Court in remarks at Harvard Law School, reports Robert Barnes of the Washington Post.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer said Tuesday that proposals to expand the Supreme Court to dilute the power of its conservative majority risk making justices appear more political and could hurt the court's influence with the public.

In remarks prepared for a speech at Harvard Law School, Breyer wrote that the court's authority depends on "a trust that the court is guided by legal principle, not politics."

He added: "Structural alteration motivated by the perception of political influence can only feed that perception, further eroding that trust." . . .

He said his intent in the lecture — named for the late Justice Antonin Scalia — was to "make those whose initial instincts may favor important structural or other similar institutional changes, such as forms of 'court-packing,' think long and hard before embodying those changes in law."

Justice Breyer also stressed that the Court's decisions, and the justices individual votes, are driven by their judicial philosophy, not partisan politics. (This is a point I also made in my recent testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.)

The Harvard Crimson reported on Justice Breyer's remarks as well. The lecture was broadcast as a Zoom webinar.

According to Barnes' report, Justice Breyer gave no indication as to whether he would be stepping down from the Court in order to allow President Biden to nominate his replacement.

UPDATE: The lecture video is now available here.

Note that the Supreme Court website has a page for speeches by the justices, but the text of the Breyer speech is not there. It appears that only Justices John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg ever posted the text of their remarks on the Court's website.