120 Yale L. J. 1999 (2010-2011)
Making Our Democracy Work: The Yale Lectures

handle is hein.journals/ylr120 and id is 2009 raw text is: THE YALE LAW JOURNAL

STEPHEN BREYER
Making Our Democracy Work: The Yale Lectures
This is a time when many Americans distrust our governmental
institutions. Perhaps that is a good reason to discuss the institution I know
best, the Supreme Court, and to ask why the public trusts that institution.
When I first was appointed to the Court, Justice Blackmun, my immediate
predecessor, told me about two interesting features of the job. First, he said,
you will find this an unusual assignment. Second, he said, ordinary
Americans have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge about the Supreme
Court. He told me, whenever I have an opportunity to explain to others what I
do, particularly those who are not judges or lawyers, to take that opportunity.
And that is what I shall try to do in these lectures.
My reason for doing so is Justice Blackmun's reason. Unless the public
understands the institution, it is unlikely to support it. And in a democracy
public support for any public institution is necessary. Without it the institution
may wither, perhaps die. Part of my job, then, is to explain what we do and
why it is valuable for ordinary Americans. By doing so, perhaps I can help the
public at least put in perspective their questions about the value to our
democracy of an independent judiciary.
I have organized my discussion through the use of two questions. The first,
which I shall discuss this afternoon, focuses upon judicial review -the fact that
the Court has the power to set aside as unconstitutional an act of Congress.
Where did it come from? Why does the Court have it? These are very old
questions, which have spawned a voluminous literature. But I shall rephrase
these questions, emphasizing one aspect of the general problem: Why does the
public do what the Court says? How has the Court earned the public's trust?
AUTHOR. Associate Justice, United States Supreme Court. These lectures were delivered at the
Yale Law School on February 15 and 16, 2010, and draw from Making Our Democracy Work:
A Judge's View, published in 2010 by Alfred A. Knopf.

1999

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