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Think Tank

Inside the Mind of Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer

What's the Big Idea?

This week in Washington D.C. the United States Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments on the constitutionality of federal health care legislation. It's a case that could impact every American, and prove to be the most significant Supreme Court decision of the decade. 

Given the weight of such a case, how do the Justices deal with the burden of decision-making? In 2007, Big Think had the opportunity to pose this question to Justice Stephen Breyer

Watch the video here:

As Breyer told Big Think, the role of the Supreme Court is to be "the frontiersmen," the judicial body that makes sure constitutional instructions are being followed by the other branches of government. 

"Life is not always easy at the frontier," Breyer says, and indeed, the court will often need to do unpopular things if it is to faithfully live up to its mandate. So while a recent poll might indicate that more Americans are opposed to the Affordable Care Act than support it, that ought to have no impact on Breyer and his fellow Justices. "I understand that the court has to maintain standing in public opinion," Breyer told Big Think. "But the way to do that is not for me to base my decisions on public opinion."

Watch the video here:

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Follow Daniel Honan on Twitter @Daniel Honan

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