Chief pragmatist

Yesterday was a travel day. As we motored home, we heard that Justice Stephen Breyer was on the eve of announcing his retirement. I thought of my late friend Charlie Hayes, who was Breyer’s contemporary at Harvard Law School ’64. I smiled as I drove. Charlie was a lot like Breyer, only more so.

Last night, an email newsletter from The Atlantic included an article about the Court opening:

The Court Loses Its Chief Pragmatist,” by Jeffrey Rosen, said Breyer fit Edward Larson’s description of Benjamin Franklin and George Washington as “enlightenment pragmatists at heart,” who made compromises to ensure a strong and flexible Constitution that would allow Americans to resolve their differences peacefully and democratically. “Both believed that the republic would survive only if American citizens and their representatives were able to use their powers of reason to moderate their selfish emotions and partisan passions, so that they could be guided by the classical virtues of temperance, prudence, fortitude, and justice.” Rosen concluded, “These founding virtues are the ones Breyer has embodied throughout his career, in his jurisprudence, and in his kind, temperate, and decent character. A lifelong teacher and learner, he is a model of the civic virtue that the Founders hoped for.”

From The Atlantic article cited above

3 thoughts on “Chief pragmatist”

    1. Rightly so, Luv. One of his former law clerks expressed an attitude that I would like to emulate in these difficult times: ““While he was frequently in dissent over the course of his time on the Court, he always remained optimistic, confident that in the end our government will work, and the courts will play an important role in making that happen. That optimism and confidence will also be an important part of his legacy.”


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