Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer visited the Boston University School of Law Thursday speaking to a crowded auditorium of staff, students, and state and federal court officials.
Breyer, who was appointed to the court by President Bill Clinton in 1994, geared his speech towards students themselves–speaking to them about his most recent book, “Making Democracy Work: A Judge’s View,” as well as speaking about the process of how rulings are made in particularly difficult cases.
Breyer described the struggle by referring to some of our nation’s most controversial cases—Brown vs. Board of Education, Korematsu vs. United States, Cherokee Nation vs. Georgia, and others. He said that, in the toughest of cases, judges are faced with the task of determining what “basic values” are, and then finding a way to preserve them. New technology also increases the need for identifying these values, Breyer said, specifically mentioning the Internet as one of these technologies.
“A lot of the job that’s so difficult is to take those things that don’t change, and apply them to things that change by the minute,” said Breyer.
He also explained that although the Internet didn’t exist as a form of free speech during the time of Abraham Lincoln, we still must consider it protected by the first amendment today.
Breyer closed the speech by speaking more specifically towards the future lawyers in the room. He described lawyers as important decision makers for the majority, who hold power over the fate of society.
“Law helps people live together in a society without killing each other,” said Breyer. “They’ll work out their differences under law. That’s the National Treasure.”
“It was humbling,” said Danessa Watkins, a BU Law student, of Justice Breyer’s words.
“Breyer drove home the fact of the importance of [court] cases on history,” said Watkins.
Justice Breyer’s appearance was the first in the new James N. Esdaile Lecture series, established by the Esdaile, Barrett, Jacobs and Mone Law Firm in honor of important BU law school alumnus James Esdaile Junior, a former editor of the Boston University Law Review and important leader within the university.