Stephen Breyer

Last Friday, we asked you to vote for your Favorite Supreme Court Justice.
Over 1,300 votes were cast. Here are the results:
favorite supreme court justice poll results.JPG
Interesting! Thanks to everyone who participated in the poll. And thanks to SCOTUSblog and Professor Althouse for linking to the poll, which generated many votes.
Update: Vote for your LEAST favorite Supreme Court justice by clicking here.
Our random observations on the results, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “ATL Poll Results: Your Favorite Supreme Court Justice”

This is NOT an official ATL contest. We won’t offer any commentary on the candidates, to keep the proceedings objective. This is simply a random Friday poll that we’re conducting for our own curiosity.
Readers of this site are generally interested in, and highly knowledgeable about, the United States Supreme Court. Many of you might be called “legal nerds” or “judicial groupies” (both of which we view as badges of honor).
So while we have you all here, we thought we’d ask:
supreme court 2006.jpg

Who is your favorite U.S. Supreme Court justice?
Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.
Justice John Paul Stevens
Justice Antonin Scalia
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy
Justice David H. Souter
Justice Clarence Thomas
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Justice Stephen G. Breyer
Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr.
Free polls from

We know that such online polls have been conducted previously. See, e.g., here. And we have seen articles in which legal experts are asked to name their favorite member of the SCOTUS. See, e.g., here.
But we haven’t seen such polls or articles for the Court as currently constituted, i.e., after the appointements of Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito. So we thought we’d run such a poll and see what results we get.
Please cast your vote, so this tally will be as accurate a representation of ATL reader opinion as possible. Thanks!

yale law school.jpg* Our Law School Dean hotties contest is now underway. Vote on the women here, the men here, and the alternate male candidates here.
* Do you know anyone who is currently clerking for Justice Alito? If so, we’d like to hear from you.
* If you’re in law for the money, we recommend Korean transactional practice, at a big firm. You’ll probably make more than you would as a solo practioner or small firm lawyer.
* If money is your top priority, then don’t bother with the law; go work for Goldman Sachs . Partners there take home an average of $7 million a year. And still find time to beat up on small businessmen.
* ATL readers: Not as rich as Goldman Sachs partners. But pretty damn smart.
* Creative ways to get yourself criminally charged: (1) walk around your office buck naked; or (2) walk out of a restaurant without paying (after concluding that your seafood pasta dish was short on the seafood).
* But protesting while topless, that’s okay.
* Lori Alvino and Matthew McGill: We are not worthy. The happy couple tied the knot earlier this month. Their wedding guests included two sitting Supreme Court justices, the chief judge of the D.C. Circuit, and two SCOTUS short-listers. (Yes, we’ve categorized this under Nauseating Things.)
* Some dispatches from the New Yorker Festival: Justice Breyer, with Jeffrey Toobin; legendary criminal defense lawyer Gerald Shargel, along with other experts on the Mafia; and some guy named Jon Stewart.
* There’s a new kid on the ATL block: Meet Stella Q. Welcome, Stella!

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Justice Stephen G. Breyer demonstrates his hidden talent for pantomime, as Jeffrey Toobin looks on admiringly. (Photo by Startraks.)
This is our final post about Justice Stephen Breyer’s recent appearance at the New Yorker Festival. Prior posts are available here, here, here, and here.
We highlight some of the more interesting or amusing remarks by Justice Breyer, after the jump.

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“Nino, you wanna piece of me?” Justice Stephen G. Breyer and Jeffrey Toobin, at the New Yorker Festival. Photo by Startraks.
Somewhat late, but better late than never: part one of the more detailed account that we promised you of Justice Stephen Breyer’s interview with Jeffrey Toobin, at the New Yorker Festival last weekend.
The setting of the interview was impressive. The Celeste Bartos Forum at the New York Public Library is a grand, high-ceilinged room, with marble and dark wood trim gracing the walls. Justice Breyer and Jeff Toobin sat on two directors’ chairs on the small, elevated stage at the front of the room, with a gold and brown backdrop behind them.
Before the talk started, one could feel the buzz of anticipation in the room. Our knees were trembling with anticipation, and our heart was beating almost audibly. Supreme Court justices make us weak! (And apparently we’re not alone. Festival publicist Kimberly Burns informed us that the Breyer/Toobin talk sold out on Ticketmaster in three minutes — like a rock concert.)
More notes, after the jump.

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stephen breyer stephen g breyer jeffrey toobin jeff toobin.JPGActually, no, we didn’t ask him that. But the question we did pose was just about as goofy. It felt sort of like Punk’d: Supreme Court Edition.
First, some background. As previously discussed, this past weekend we attended Jeffrey Toobin’s interview of Justice Stephen G. Breyer, part of the New Yorker Festival. It was an interesting talk, even if it may not have met our (perhaps unrealistic) expectations.
We may write even more about the interview later (because it did go on for about an hour and a half). For now, though, we’ll share with you what happened when we got up during the Q-and-A session and posed a question to Justice Stephen Breyer.
Check it out, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “ATL to Justice Breyer: “What Kind of Tree Would You Be?””

stephen breyer contemplative.jpgIt’s another amazingly beautiful day here in New York, and we’re blogging from Bryant Park. The temperature is in the low 70′s, there’s not a cloud in the sky, and a slight breeze is blowing. Life is good.

We don’t have much time — we’re about to run off to another New Yorker Festival event — but after sleeping on it, and reviewing our notes (’cause that’s what they’re for), we’d like to revise our earlier assessment of Justice Breyer’s interview with Jeffrey Toobin yesterday.

Although it could have been more fun, if Justice Breyer had been more forthcoming, there were actually quite a number of interesting stories and humorous moments — more than we remembered. Yesterday’s take may have been influenced by the fact that the interview’s highlights were clustered toward the beginning of the talk, and more of the bland civics-lecture material was near the end. So immediately after leaving the talk, it was the dry stuff that stuck in our mind. We’ll have more to say later about the best parts of the interview.

In the meantime, check out Ann Althouse’s great question:

David Lat gets antsy when an interview with Justice Breyer is insufficiently confessional. Why can’t he be more like Justice Scalia (or Judge Posner or Judge Kozinski)? Is there some reason the conservative judicial stars are more fun? Do liberals always have to demonstrate their circumspection?

It’s a fascinating inquiry, and one that we’ve entertained often ourselves. Do you have thoughts on why today’s leading judicial “rock stars” tend to be conservative? If so, please place them in the comments. (We’d like to see more robust debates in the comments here at ATL, like at other blogs.)

Three thoughts that we’d like to offer, before you accuse us (and Professor Althouse) of being biased in favor of conservatives:

1. There are a number of charismatic, colorful, outspoken federal judges who are quite liberal. Four examples, off the top of our head: Judge Stephen Reinhardt (9th Cir.), Judge Guido Calabresi (2d Cir.), Judge Jack Weinstein (E.D.N.Y.), and Judge Nancy Gertner (D. Mass.). So, in fairness to the left wing, let’s admit that they too have their icons.

2. Today the top judicial celebrities tend to be conservative. Is this just because the Republicans have been in power for quite some time — and because the most recent Supreme Court nominees, as well as any SCOTUS nominees in the near future, will probably be conservatives?

(Or maybe not. Judge Kozinski or Judge Posner are both brilliant, but they are unlikely Supreme Court nominees, perhaps because they are so outspoken and larger-than-life.)

3. It wasn’t always like this. Two of the most enjoyable and entertaining Supreme Court justices of the twentieth century were Justice Douglas and Justice Brennan — and they don’t come more liberal than that. (So don’t accuse us of refusing to recognize fascinating figures of the judicial left. We just feel that the best ones aren’t around today.)

Okay, gotta run. Apologies for typos or sloppy (or sloppier than usual) writing; we haven’t proofread this. Hasta luego.

“If you’ve sat through one of Justice Breyer’s civics lectures on C-SPAN… you’ve heard this all before.” [Althouse]

stephen breyer stephen g breyer jeffrey toobin jeff toobin.JPGWe’re about to head to dinner, so we’ll write more about this later. For now, from Bryant Park — free wireless! — here’s a quick, rushed, half-baked commentary on Justice Stephen G. Breyer’s interview with Jeffrey Toobin at the New Yorker Festival.
It’s always thrilling to see a Supreme Court justice in the flesh. But, truth be told, we were a little disappointed (and not because SGB dodged our question during the Q-and-A with a rambling hypothetical about green roof tiles). On the whole, Justice Breyer was a bit too tame in his remarks to be a great interviewee.
It wasn’t Jeff Toobin’s fault; Toobin tried to bring Justice Breyer out of his shell (as he did with Edie Falco, who was a brilliant interviewee at last year’s Festival). But Justice Breyer was, on the whole, too restrained and insufficiently gossipy.
Justice Breyer was obviously precluded from talking about substantive legal issues (which several audience made futile attempts to get him to do). So he should have offered up lots of color and dish: harmless random details about life as a SCOTUS justice, tons of funny stories. Sadly, he didn’t do much of that; a little, but not enough.
What did he do? He offered up lots of vague generalities about the role of the courts in a democracy. If you’ve sat through one of Justice Breyer’s civics lectures on C-SPAN, or through the first week of a Con Law course, you’ve heard this all before. A telling refrain that preceded many of his remarks: “As I tell my students” (i.e., the elementary and high schoolers he gives civics lessons to).
The best interviewees are confessional. You feel like they’re at dinner with a close friend (the interviewer), and you’re a fly on the wall, hearing all sorts of juicy stuff you really shouldn’t be hearing. But everything Justice Breyer said today he could have said — and probably has already said — on C-SPAN, or in his book, Active Liberty.
You’re about to complain: “C’mon, how could you expect much fun? The man is a sitting Supreme Court justice, for crying out loud!”
Our response: There are ways to entertain, enrage, or engage your audience, even if you’re a federal judge, without violating ethical precepts. Every time Justice Scalia makes a public appearance, for example, there’s an article in the newspaper the next day about some fun, wacky, or thought-provoking remark he made.
Judge Alex Kozinski and Judge Richard Posner are the same way. They are colorful characters, prolific writers and public speakers. They make us laugh, and they make us think, but without crossing the line into impropriety.
Unfortunately, Justice Breyer shied too far away from that line in his appearance today. We’ll blog about the highlights of what he did say later (and don’t get us wrong; there were a number of funny moments and interesting anecdotes). But on the whole, for those of you who couldn’t get tickets (it sold out in three minutes), you didn’t miss as much as you might think.

stephen breyer stephen g breyer jeffrey toobin jeff toobin.JPGAnother weekend, another out-of-town excursion. In a few hours, we’re heading back up to the Big Apple, to attend events at the New Yorker Festival. A brief description of the Festival, from its website:

The New Yorker Festival returns for its seventh year, from October 6th through October 8th, in a celebratory weekend of public discourse on arts and ideas. The three-day schedule of events encompasses readings, musical performances, interviews, debates, and excursions around New York City.

If you happen to be attending the Festival too, please come up and say hello. We’ll be at these events:

1. Fiction Into Film

2. TV, Movies, and the Mob

3. The Honorable Stephen G. Breyer and Jeffrey Toobin

4. Master Class in Criticism: Hilton Als and Anthony Lane

5. Jon Stewart Interviewed by David Remnick

We’re especially looking forward to the appearance of Justice Stephen G. Breyer, whom we’ve never seen up close and personal.* Justice Breyer will be interviewed by Jeffrey Toobin — who, for obvious reasons, is one of our favorite legal journalists (or writers of any type, period). Last year we attended Jeff Toobin’s interview of Edie Falco, which was nothing short of brilliant — one of the best live interviews we’ve ever attended (and we’ve attended many over the years; we’re interview junkies).
Our excitement about seeing Justice Breyer has only increased since we realized, earlier today, that he looks like an older version of one of our favorite screenwriters and actors: the phenomentally talented, unfailingly hilarious Mike White, who wrote and acted in Chuck & Buck, The Good Girl, and The School of Rock (among many other films).**
Check it out. Here’s the ocular proof:
mike white screenwriter justice stephen breyer stephen g breyer.JPG
* We’ve seen all of the justices from across the SCOTUS courtroom, at oral argument (including the late Chief Justice Rehnquist and retired Justice O’Connor). But in terms of actual, formal introductions — of the handshake-and-name-exchange type — we’ve met only Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito.
** Chuck&Buck is one of our favorite movies of all time. We have a weakness for films focused on obsession and insanity. E.g., All About Eve, The Piano Teacher, Fatal Attraction, Monster.
The New Yorker Festival [official website]
Mike White biography [Yahoo! Movies]
Mike White I [IMDb]

judge william pryor bill pryor william h pryor jr.jpgJudge William H. Pryor, Jr., of the Eleventh Circuit, had an interesting op-ed in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, in which he took issue with various “leaders of the bench and bar [who] have decried what they describe as unprecedented threats to the independence of the judiciary.” It’s a fun little piece, largely because the position Judge Pryor critiques is accepted in many quarters as a truism.
From the perspective of Article III groupies, however, this might be the best paragraph in the whole thing. It is, in essence, a concise collection of notable benchslaps — which Judge Pryor marshals in support of the proposition that recent critiques of the judiciary may not be as harsh as they seem.

Many contemporary criticisms of judicial decisions by politicians are no more heated than the criticisms written by jurists in dissenting opinions. In Roper v. Simmons, Justice O’Connor protested that “the Court [had] preempt[ed] the democratic debate through which genuine consensus might develop.” Justice Breyer warned, in what he called the “highly politicized matter” of Bush v. Gore, that “the appearance of a split decision runs the risk of undermining the public’s confidence in the Court itself.” Consider also the harsh words of Justice William Brennan in Oregon v. Elstad: “the Court mischaracterizes our precedents, obfuscates the central issues, and altogether ignores the practical realities . . . that have led nearly every lower court to reject its simplistic reasoning.”

Good stuff. But we must point out a notable omission: Why no Nino?
‘Neither Force Nor Will, But Merely Judgment’ [Wall Street Journal via How Appealing]
Judge Pryor’s Op-ed in Today’s WSJ [Southern Appeal]

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