Stephen Breyer ’64 announced on Jan. 27 that he will step down after more than a quarter century on the Supreme Court. Harvard Law Today offers a look back at his career and his legacy, and his lifelong connection to Harvard Law School, with reflections from professors, colleagues, and former clerks and students on the long-serving Justice’s profound belief in democracy and the rule of law, and his influence on the Court and beyond.

Pragmatic Justice

At a press conference in the Roosevelt Room at the White House, President Joe Biden thanked Justice Breyer for his long history of public service, calling his opinions “practical, sensible, and nuanced, reflect[ing] his belief that the job of a judge is not to lay down a rule, but to get it right.”

In his remarks, Breyer reminded his audience that America is a complicated and diverse country of 300 million people representing “every point of view possible.” Yet miraculously, he said, “They’ve decided to help solve their major differences under law.”

Our nation is “an experiment,” he added, one that all of us are tasked with continuing. Read more

On the Court, Breyer had a ‘deeply thoughtful, learned, humane, and pragmatic approach’

In the wake of the news that Justice Breyer will retire at the end of the current term, Harvard Law School faculty members — one of whom knew Breyer as a young law student — offered their thoughts on his tenure, legacy, and how the nation’s highest court could change after his departure. Read more

Justice Stephen Breyer — A Passionate Pragmatist

With the announcement of Breyer’s retirement has come an outpouring of testaments to his transformative presence on the Court. Richard Lazarus ’79, the Howard and Katherine Aibel Professor of Law, who has represented the United States, state and local governments, and environmental groups in the United States Supreme Court in 40 cases and has presented oral argument in 14 of those cases, reflects on Justice Breyer’s “striking pragmatism” — and passion — during his judicial tenure. Read more

Faculty weigh in on Breyer’s departure and the way forward

In the hours and days since Breyer’s announcement, Harvard Law School faculty have shared observations on his legacy and weighed in about the process of appointing and confirming his successor. Read more