The PJ Tatler

Breyer: 'We Are Only Human,' Some Decisions 'May Be Wrong'

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer acknowledged that the body may be making the wrong decisions, especially in cases that closely divide the court.

But, he told CNN in promoting a new book explaining his rulings, “what is settled law is what we wrote and how these issues play out on the margin is something I don’t yet know,” Breyer said when asked about his prediction that same-sex marriage would come back before the court. “But I know there’s a chance. They might be coming out in various ways.”

“Every judge knows that many of the decisions that we make will be unpopular. We also know, absolutely, that since we are only human, there are often — perhaps not too often, we hope — that may be wrong. If they’re 5-4, somebody may be wrong,” he said when asked about whether their rulings go beyond their constitutional authority. “But eventually, a country, whether it is the United States or some other country, decides, well, the benefits of a rule of law are worth it.”

“There have been plenty of times in history where the court has been the subject of very strong criticism. Is that criticism protected? The First Amendment, Congress shall pass no law abridging the freedom of speech. People are entitled to their opinion.”

Breyer also weighed in on Donald Trump’s views on repealing birthright citizenship under the 14th Amendment: “My reaction as a judge is to stay as far away from that as I possibly can.”

He did say that it’s “time to revisit the issue” of the death penalty.

“I put together this evidence and say, this is not what people expected when they wrote the cases upholding the death penalty for more than 40 years ago,” the justice said.

Breyer said the Supreme Court justices have a good personal relationship.

“It is not sort of slap on the back, ‘let’s go out for a drink’ all the time, as is more of the relationship on the court of appeals. But it is not hostile, we are friends and we do have dinner together. And I have never in 21 years heard in that conference room heard a voice raised in anger, never, and I have never heard one justice in that room say something insulting about another, sliding not even really as a joke,” he said.

“Personally, we get on well. It’s very professional. You decide the cases seriously and thoroughly. And then there is no reason we can’t be friends. But there’s no reason that human beings cannot differ civilly — civilly — on matters of great importance.”

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