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Justice Stephen Breyer on the Supreme Court and Politics

In-person Program

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Monday, October 4, 2021 - 6:00 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. ET
Code: 1L0431
National Portrait Gallery
McEvoy Auditorium, 8th & G Sts NW
Metro: Gallery Place/Chinatown
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Justice Stephen Breyer (Photo: Steve Petteway)

Please Note: This program is being held in-person and as a streaming program on Zoom. Program details below are for the In-person Option.

Register for the Streaming Option

A growing chorus of officials and commentators argues that the Supreme Court has become too political. The confirmation process is just an exercise in partisan agenda-setting, and the jurists are no more than “politicians in robes” camouflaging conservative or liberal convictions with ostensibly neutral judicial philosophies.

In his new book, The Authority of the Court and the Peril of Politics, Stephen Breyer draws upon his experience as a Supreme Court justice to sound a cautionary note: The judiciary’s hard-won authority could be marred by reforms premised on the assumption of ideological bias. Having, as Hamilton observed, “no influence over either the sword or the purse,” Breyer argues that the Court earned its authority by making decisions that have, over time, increased the public’s trust. If that trust is now in decline, one part of the solution is to promote better understandings of how the judiciary actually works, how judges adhere to their oaths, and how they try to avoid considerations of politics and popularity.

In conversation with Joan Biskupic, CNN legal analyst, Breyer discusses why political intervention could itself further erode public trust, imperiling the Court’s ability to act as a check on the other branches of government or as a guarantor of the rule of law, risking serious harm to our constitutional system.

Tickets include copies of The Authority of the Court and the Peril of Politics (Harvard University Press).

NOTE: Please use the G St NW entrance to the National Portrait Gallery.

General Information for In-person Programs

As Smithsonian Associates begins to host in-person programs, we’re putting safety first. We ask that all visitors, including those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, to follow these safety measures to protect everyone’s health. Visitors who do not adhere to safety policies and guidelines may be asked to leave.

  • CDC and Smithsonian Covid-19 guidelines in effect at the time of the program will be followed. Updates will be posted here as they become available. Protocols such as distanced seating, mask mandate and/or proof of vaccination may be required.
  • All visitors ages two and older are required to wear a face covering while visiting Smithsonian locations in indoor spaces regardless of vaccination status.
  • The theater will be seated at approximately 50% capacity, and social distancing policies will be in place.
  • Seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis, and we cannot guarantee that you will be seated with your entire household or group. Please allow for extra time to get through security and check-in.
  • Please view additional Guidelines for Visiting the Smithsonian here.

Other Note: No physical tickets will be provided/mailed. Check-in will occur at the door with a patron roster.

Book Information

Books for ticket-holders who attend the program in-person will be distributed on-site. They will be pre-signed.