Justice Breyer comes to Baltimore and other October events

The Maryland Court of Appeals’ Ideals of Professionalism calls on attorneys to “willingly take on the responsibility of promoting the image of the legal profession by educating each client and the public regarding the principles underlying the justice system.” On Thursday, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer puts this to practice in Baltimore by promoting his book, "Making Democracy Work: A Judge’s View," which seeks to explain the power of the court and why the public has and should accept the opinions of an unelected institution. Justice Breyer believes that the more the public understands the court, the more it will accept its authority -- even if it makes decisions that may be widely unpopular. (Perhaps the justice’s book tour comes at a good time: a recent Gallup poll shows the Supreme Court’s approval rating at only 46 percent, near the all-time low of 42 percent in 2005.) The book is born out of Breyer’s concern that too much cynicism about the court endangers our system of government because the public may not accept unpopular opinions. Therefore, he argues that for the court to be perceived as legitimate and earn the public’s confidence, we have to dispel that cynicism by educating the public about how the court works and the basis of its power. Breyer further contends that the court should reject  originalism and view “the Constitution as containing unwavering values that must be applied flexibly to ever-changing circumstances” and that the court should “take account of the role of other governmental institutions and the relationships among them.” I think the book is well worth the read for anyone interested in learning more about the court and those interested in Constitutional theory. However, I think it unfortunate that Breyer does not apply the pragmatic, progressive approach he has of the Constitution to the way in which the court goes about its work.

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