Former Justice Breyer to Supreme Court: Writing opinions 'too rigidly' could 'bite you in the back'

"Life is complex, life changes," the liberal former justice said

Updated: September 23, 2022 - 2:43pm

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Former Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer is warned current justices that writing opinions "too rigidly" can "bite you in the back," in his first televised interview since leaving the court this summer. 

"You start writing too rigidly and you will see, the world will come around and bite you in the back," Breyer said in a CNN that aired Friday.

"Life is complex, life changes," the liberal former justice said. "And we want to maintain insofar as we can – everybody does – certain key moral political values: democracy, human rights, equality, rule of law, etc. To try to do that in an ever-changing world."

Breyer called his final term on the high court "very frustrating," as he was in the minority on several landmark cases including Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, which overturned Roe v. Wade, ending decades of federal protections for abortions. 

Regarding the Dobbs decision, Breyer said: "Was I happy about it? Not for an instant. Did I do everything I could to persuade people? Of course, of course. But there we are and now we go on. We try to work together."

The former Clinton-appointed justice who sat on the bench for 28 years condemned the leak of the Dobbs decision nearly two months before it was published by the court. 

"It was very damaging because that kind of thing just doesn't happen. It just doesn't happen," he said. 

Most of the Supreme Court justices have publicly condemned the leak, and Chief Justice John Roberts subsequently launched an investigation.