Justice Breyer Addresses Hillel Crowd

Discusses Supreme Court

After attending a special dinner at Hillel last night, Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer took time out to answer questions about his experiences from a group of about 75 students.

Throughout the question and answer period, Breyer focused on the Court's relationship with the federal government and repeatedly emphasized the need for judicial independence.

Breyer began the session by explaining the role of the Court as a body which creates uniformity on opinion of federal law.

He emphasized the importance of enforcing Court decisions because he said he recently observed the Soviet Supreme Court, whose decision are often ignored in the individual republics.

One example of federal intervention within the American court system cited by Breyer was the decision handed down in Cooper v. Aaron,in which President Eisenhower sent federal troops to Arkansas to enforce desegregation.


Breyer also addressed the importance of avoiding outside influences such as political ideology or public opinion while making a ruling.

Although Breyer said Justices remain abreast of current political issues, the complexity of individual cases appropriately prevents the application of their personal views.

He also stressed that a Justice's religious convictions are never the sole motivation in handing down an opinion.

All in all, Breyer praised the Constitution as a "self-repairing mechanism." He said that although flaws might be present in the judicial system, the Constitution has often acted as a safeguard.

Hillel invited Breyer to address its membership last semester, but Breyer was unable to attend due to his busy schedule.

He said that Olivia M. Leland '98, a Crimson executive, was instrumental in securing his attendance.

Breyer attended grammar school and high school with Leland's father, and they remain close friends today.

The undergraduates who attended the session were impressed with Breyer's candor.

"Though he could not speak directly about individual cases," said Vladimir B. Bystriciky '00, "he gave direct answers to the questions asked of him."

Willard S. Kasoff '99 also expressed admiration for Justice Breyer.

"Breyer is a very interesting figure," he said, "It was a very informative evening.