Justice Stephen Breyer

Easton Press Stephen Breyer books

Active Liberty : Interpreting Our Democratic Constitution - Signed Limited Edition - 2006


Justice Stephen Breyer

Stephen Gerald Breyer, born on August 15, 1938, in San Francisco, California, is an American jurist who served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. His life and career have been dedicated to the pursuit of justice and the interpretation of the Constitution. Breyer's academic journey began at Stanford University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy in 1959. He continued his studies at the University of Oxford as a Marshall Scholar, obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree in Jurisprudence. Returning to the United States, he attended Harvard Law School, where he earned his law degree in 1964.

Before his appointment to the Supreme Court, Breyer built a distinguished career in law and academia. He served as a law clerk for Justice Arthur Goldberg and later worked in the U.S. Department of Justice as an assistant special prosecutor for the Watergate Special Prosecution Force. Breyer also taught at Harvard Law School and worked on the Senate Judiciary Committee staff. In 1994, President Bill Clinton nominated Stephen Breyer to the Supreme Court to fill the vacancy left by retiring Justice Harry Blackmun. Breyer's confirmation was swift, and he took his seat on the bench on August 3, 1994. Throughout his tenure, Justice Breyer was known for his pragmatic and consensus-building approach, often seeking to find common ground among the justices.

Breyer's jurisprudence reflects a commitment to interpreting the Constitution as a living document, responsive to the changing needs of society. He has been an advocate for understanding the practical implications of legal decisions and the broader impact on people's lives.

In addition to his judicial duties, Justice Breyer has authored several books, including Active Liberty: Interpreting Our Democratic Constitution and Making Our Democracy Work: A Judge's View. These works reflect his thoughtful reflections on the role of the judiciary in a democratic society.


Active Liberty - Interpreting Our Democratic Constitution

A brilliant new approach to the Constitution and courts of the United States by Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. For Justice Breyer, the Constitution’s primary role is to preserve and encourage what he calls “active liberty”: citizen participation in shaping government and its laws. As this book argues, promoting active liberty requires judicial modesty and deference to Congress; it also means recognizing the changing needs and demands of the populace. Indeed, the Constitution’s lasting brilliance is that its principles may be adapted to cope with unanticipated situations, and Breyer makes a powerful case against treating it as a static guide intended for a world that is dead and gone. Using contemporary examples from federalism to privacy to affirmative action, this is a vital contribution to the ongoing debate over the role and power of our courts.

The book reflects his commitment to what he terms "active liberty" and his belief that the Constitution should be interpreted in a way that promotes democratic values and citizen participation. Justice Breyer argues for a pragmatic and dynamic approach to constitutional interpretation, emphasizing the importance of understanding the Constitution's broader principles in the context of contemporary challenges. He contends that judges should take into account the Constitution's underlying purpose of promoting active citizen engagement and democratic governance.

Active Liberty is not only a legal treatise but also a philosophical exploration of the interplay between law, democracy, and civic participation. Breyer draws on historical examples and legal precedents to support his arguments, presenting a vision of the Constitution as a document that evolves and adapts to the needs of a changing society.

The book has been both praised and critiqued for its approach to constitutional interpretation. Supporters appreciate Justice Breyer's emphasis on the Constitution's democratic values, while critics argue about the potential subjectivity and ambiguity that may arise from a more flexible interpretive framework. Active Liberty contributes to the ongoing discourse on constitutional law and the judiciary's role in shaping and safeguarding democratic principles. It provides insight into Justice Breyer's judicial philosophy and his perspective on the dynamic relationship between the Constitution and the democratic ideals it seeks to protect.

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