Retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer was a pragmatist who believed in looking at the practical effects of the law as well as an optimist who believed he could sway even the most intransigent of opponent, his former clerk and Judge Vince Chhabria told the PBS NewsHour’s John Yang. “He always believed that you have to take multiple factors into consideration when you’re deciding cases and you do also have to focus on the consequences as well as the strict legal language,” said Chhabria, a judge on the U.S. District Court in Northern California.
Breyer, who announced his intent to retire Jan. 27, was appointed to the court in 1994. Chhabria clerked for Breyer during the 2001-2002 Supreme Court term. Breyer, a part of the court’s liberal bloc, also carried an optimism with him in his work, Chhabria said, including whether he could sway his most conservative colleagues and “intellectual rivals,” such as former Justice Antonin Scalia. “When I was clerking for him, he was of the view that he would be able to convince Justice Scalia that the death penalty was unconstitutional,” Chhabria said. “He had unbridled optimism.”
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