Stephen Breyer warned the justices that some of the opinions could “bite you in the rear” in an exclusive interview with CNN’s Chris Wallace.


In a wide-ranging interview with CNN’s Chris Wallace on “Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace,” which premieres Friday on HBOMax and airs Sunday night on CNN, Breyer also lamented his position in the court’s liberal minority bloc during his last term on the bench. in the year Roe v. Wade spoke of the court’s reversal and ongoing controversy over Ginni Thomas, the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas.

Breyer said it was a “very frustrating” place to be, as he found himself dissenting in several landmark cases where he said he was unwilling to bow to the majority (though the conservative, retired justice didn’t use that description). .

“You start writing too hard and you’ll see, the world will come around and bite you in the back,” Breyer said in his first televised interview since leaving the bench earlier this year. “Because it’s just something you see that you’re going to find that doesn’t work at all. And the Supreme Court, as opposed to others, has such a problem.”

“Life is complex, life changes,” Breyer added. “And as much as we can – everyone does – we want to maintain some key political and moral values: democracy, human rights, equality, the rule of law, etc. Trying to do that in a constantly changing world. If you believe. you can do it 16 writing a computer program — I disagree.”

Breyer’s comments come days before the Supreme Court begins its first term without him in nearly 30 years. In the new term, the justices will consider issues including voting rights, immigration, affirmative action, environmental regulations and religious freedom, areas where a strong conservative majority can easily control the outcome.

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During his last term on the bench, Breyer was often in the minority on the court’s headline cases, including those on abortion, gun rights and the environment. He told Wallace that being outnumbered in those cases was “very disappointing,” but said he took the losses in stride.

Dobbs’ decision: ‘Was I happy? Not in a moment’

Breyer in Roe v. He weighed in on the court’s controversial decision to overturn Wade in June, making the historic abortion rights case controversial as it debated.

“And you said I liked this Dobbs decision? Of course I didn’t. Of course I didn’t,” the retired justice said, raising his voice.

“Was I happy? Not in an instant. Did I do everything I could to convince people? Of course, of course. But we are there and we continue now. We try to work together.”

Breyer also decried the leak of the draft opinion earlier this year in the decision to overturn Roe, saying the unprecedented breach of court protocol was “very damaging.”

“Was there an earthquake inside the courthouse?” Wallace asked.

“An earthquake?” Breyer responded. “It was very damaging, because this kind of thing doesn’t happen. It doesn’t happen. And there we are.”

Other justices have also blasted the leak — including Justice Elena Kagan, who called it “appalling” earlier this month — and public opinion of the high court took a turn for the worse in the aftermath.

Chief Justice John Roberts ordered an internal investigation into the leak shortly after it happened, and Kagan said recently that he expects the justices to provide an update on the investigation’s status by the end of September.

The Ginni Thomas debate

Breyer was careful not to inject any drama into his interview about Ginni Thomas’ political activism, as her support of efforts to overturn former President Donald Trump’s election defeat has come under scrutiny because of her husband’s involvement in a case before the Supreme Court. January 6 home investigation.

Asked if he thought Ginni Thomas’s political activism harmed the court’s standing, Breyer said, “I don’t get that, because I think women who are wives, including wives of Supreme Court justices, have to do their lives, their careers, what- what kind of careers, etc. how they should take the decisions.’

He added: “I’m not going to criticize Ginni Thomas, who I like. I’m not going to criticize Clarence, who I like. And there we are.”

Collegium and retirement of judges

Reflecting on his nearly three decades on the Supreme Court, Breyer pointed out that relations between conservative and liberal justices had soured as he neared retirement, admitting that “at times” there seemed to be two separate camps on the bench.

“Less than you think. Less than you think…but I can’t say never,” he said.

Breyer said the court, long known for its collegiality, has changed some recently, using the “pleasant” conversations that often occur in courtrooms after arguing a case as an example of the change.
Supreme Court justices say all is well, but their caustic written opinions say otherwise

“Maybe a little less cheerful, but I don’t mean – I didn’t hear people in that conference room screaming at each other in anger,” he said.

“What you do is what I learned from (Justice) Arthur Goldberg when I was his law clerk, and I’ve tried to live that up. And I also learned from Senator (Ted) Kennedy, when I worked for him,” Breyer said. “You do your best, you know, and maybe people will agree. And maybe they won’t. And maybe you’ll win. And maybe you’ll lose. And then you think a little bit about what you do.”

“Move on to the next thing so you can do a decent job next time,” he added. “And keep going.”

Breyer, who announced his retirement plans while Democrats controlled the Senate and amid pressure from liberals who wanted him off the court while President Joe Biden was in office, said he decided to leave now because he was worried that if Republicans took over the chamber, they might. he was forced to sit on the bench for years while the GOP blocked the Presidential nominee.

“There have been delays, you know, when the party splits between control of the Senate and control of the presidency,” Breyer said. “And sometimes, long periods of time go by and I’d rather be in my retirement, in my court, not get involved in what I call these purely political issues.”

CNN’s Ariane de Vogue and Zachary Cohen contributed to this report.