Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Justice Breyer Promotes His New Book

Justice Stephen Breyer is interviewed by Terry Gross on "Fresh Air."   The 30 minute or so audio is here  and a transcript is here.

Much of the discussion seems to be lifted directly from  41oeQkMQ7aL._SL500_AA300_
Breyer's new book, Making Our Democracy Work, released today. 

An exception is a discussion about the recent threatened Quran burning.

TERRY GROSS:  The Florida preacher who threatened to burn the Quran, some people said well, that's his free speech right and then, but what about the rights of Muslims who would be offended to the core, outraged by that act? As a Supreme Court justice, I wonder how you looked at - if you're willing to talk about it - how you looked at that event and if there's the possibility that burning a sacred text of any religion would be considered a hate crime. Like, how do you balance all of the rights and positions involved in a situation like that?

Justice BREYER: Well, I don't look at those things that - issues and so forth -that might come up in the future, because if they do come up in the future, I'll have the issue in front of me and it will be very, very well briefed. They'll be lots written about it and I'll be able to form a more intelligent opinion. I would say that where you're talking about the freedom of speech and something like this preacher or anything like that, I would keep two cases in mind.

One is years ago, Justice Holmes said you cannot shout fire in a crowded theater because that could kill people. Very well. That sets limits to the freedom of speech. But the court also said where an American flag is being burned in protest, that the Constitution protects that because it is a purely symbolic action which is being done, despite how much people hate it, to express a point of view. So, we probably, were we to have such a case, we'd have to have a law in front of us, see what it says, see what the actions are. But I've given you an outline, which sort of sets boundaries.

Breyer makes a good interview subject, speaking in an accessible manner.  Students will especially enjoy the interview. 



Books, Courts and Judging, First Amendment, Interpretation, Supreme Court (US), Teaching Tips, Web/Tech | Permalink

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I heard most of that interview during my evening commute and was astonished at how misinformed Terry Gross was. Among other blunders, she seemed to think that the holding of Citizens United was corporations can donate unlimited amounts to candidates, and that treating corporations as persons under the First Amendment was some new legal development. I was hoping Justice Breyer would correct her, but I guess he felt that that wasn't his job.

Posted by: JP98 | Sep 15, 2010 6:23:14 AM

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