Supreme Court Justice: Stephen Breyer
Justice Stephen Breyer is a current Justice of the United States Supreme Court who was appointed in 1994 by President Bill Clinton. Stephen Breyer was born on August 15, 1938 in San Francisco to a middle-class Jewish family in San Francisco. He graduated from Lowell High School and then went on to Stanford University where he received a B.A. in philosophy along with a B.A. from Magdalen College. Stephen Breyer then continued on to receive his LL.B from Harvard University.
Stephen Breyer first served as a law clerk in 1964 and continued on to be a special assistant to the U.S. Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust between 1965 and 1967. Afterwards he was an assistant special prosecutor in 1973 for the Watergate Special Prosecution Force. He also served as chief counsel of the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary.
Afterwards, Stephen Breyer worked a judge on the First Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals . He was nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1993 for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, and was appointed in 1994. As a Judge, Stephen Breyer’s practical approach to the law is to assessing a law’s constitutionality by look at the consequences and purposes of the Constitution’s text rather than looking at the text in a more literal and historical fashion.
Lawrence v. Texas (2003): A landmark Supreme Court case that examined and struck down a Texas sodomy law by a 6-3 ruling. In the previous Supreme Court case Bowers v. Hardwick (1986), the court upheld a Georgia statute and stated that there was no protection of sexual privacy that existed in the constitution. The new ruling stated that the previous case examined liberty interest of citizens too narrowly. The majority decision, which included Justice Stephen Breyer, explained that intimate sexual conduct which was consensual was protected by the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. The Court’s decision invalidated many similar laws in the country that criminalized sodomy between consenting heterosexual as well as homosexual adults in private.
Stenberg v. Carhart (2000): A Supreme Court case that carefully examined a Nebraska law that illegalized partial-birth abortion, with the exception of when it would save the mother’s life. The Supreme Court struck down the partial-birth abortion ban, and found that it violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause which was first interpreted in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the majority opinion of the Court, and stated that in Planned Parenthood v. Casey found that an abortion law that limited an undue burden on the right to choose for a woman was unconstitutional. Breyer continued by saying that the ban would cause a fear of prosecution, conviction, and imprisonment, which would be an undue burden, thus unconstitutional.
District of Columbia v. Heller (2008): A landmark Supreme Court case where the held that the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protected an citizen’s right to possess a firearm for lawful purposes, such as self-defense within a residence. The Court’s decision did not discuss the question of if the 2nd Amendment went beyond federal enclaves to the states. The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the D.C. Circuit Court of appeals which determined that guns were “arms” for all intents and purposes of the Second Amendment, and that D.C.’s ban was unconstitutional. Justice John Paul Stevens wrote a dissent joined by Justice Stephen Breyer which worked to show that the handgun ban and trigger lock requirement would be considered permissible limitations on the Second Amendment. Furthermore, Justice Stephen Breyer’s dissent examined early municipal fire-safety laws that did not allow the storage of gunpowder and argued for the necessity of gun-control laws for the sake of public safety.