Stephen Breyer second Bryan Series speaker

Mark your calendars and buy your tickets because US Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer will be speaking at the next Bryan Series. The event will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 2 at 7:30 p.m. in the Greensboro Coliseum Complex.

Breyer will mostly be discussing his new book, “The Court and the World.” In his novel, Breyer talks about the duties and responsibilities of the Supreme Court and the modern world. Breyer will also talk about the judicial process court cases that have been previously resolved by the Supreme Court.

Breyer began studying law at Stanford University, where he majored in philosophy and graduated in 1959. After graduating from Harvard Law School, he worked as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg. Breyer then returned to Harvard to teach law, but was promptly appointed by President Jimmy Carter to serve on the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in 1980. In 1994, Breyer was appointed to replace retired Justice Harry Blackmun by President Bill Clinton, and has served on the Supreme Court for 25 years since then.

Breyer has deliberated on a number of high profile cases, including Obergefell v. Hodges which forced states to recognize same-sex marriages performed out of state. Breyer voted in favor of the ruling and helped win marriage rights for thousands of gay couples. He is expected to talk about Obergefell v. Hodges and many other cases resolved by the Supreme Court.

Suzanne Ingram, director of the Bryan Series, recruited Breyer to speak. Every year, Ingram and her team assemble a group of speakers through a long but rewarding process.

“We look for a variety of viewpoints,” Ingram said. “Having a Supreme Court justice speak is a truly rare opportunity.”

Although Breyer has extensive legal knowledge, his speech will not be esoteric in nature.

“This talk is for anyone who is interested in the way our judicial system works. You don’t have to be taking law classes to enjoy it,” Ingram said.

Justice Breyer is often described as pragmatic and an optimist by his peers. He frequently reaches across party lines to solve problems for the good of the United States. Overcoming party lines is a topic that Breyer will be addressing in his talk. 

Assistant Professor of Justice and Policy Studies Catherine Bonventre agrees with Breyer’s notion that party lines hinder the court’s ability to operate. 

“Political polarization could damage the legitimacy of the Court if the public perceives the Justices as acting more like politicians than judges,” Bonventre said. 

In today’s climate, where everything seems to be divided, the Supreme Court retains the ability to have a conversation rather than an argument.

This message of tearing down political walls seems to resonate through the Guilford community. Students are not only interested in attending the event to see a Supreme Court Justice, but also to hear what he has to say about not letting politics divide the community.

“I would be interested to go and learn how to set aside political bias in daily life,” said first-year Abdullah Shahid.

Other students were interested in knowing about the judicial process as a whole.

“I want him to talk about how the courts operate on a daily basis, things like how long trials take and what types of cases they get,” said first-year Maya Moore. 

Current Guilford students receive one free ticket to the event. Tickets will be available starting Monday, Sept. 23 and ending Wed, Oct. 2. To get your tickets, go to the Founders Hall info desk. Act quickly to take advantage of this amazing opportunity because tickets are distributed on a first come first serve basis.


Editor’s note: This story was originally published in Volume 106, Issue 1 of The Guilfordian on Oct. 4, 2019.