Stephen Breyer, the liberal justice who is rounding out two and a half decades on the Supreme Court, doggedly avoided saying anything remotely relevant to the scandal surrounding Brett Kavanaugh in an interview on Thursday.
Breyer’s potential future colleague has been publicly accused of sexual assault or misconduct by three women. Kavanaugh’s nomination hearings were long and contentious and constantly interrupted by protesters. The whole process has been highly politicized, leaving American voters feeling angry and divided. Breyer, however, had nothing to say about the importance of judicial independence or the effort to elevate the judiciary above partisanship.
“I’m obviously going to stay as far away as I can from any particular controversy that’s going on,” he said in an interview at The Atlantic Festival. During a particularly ugly episode in American politics, when the prospect of a fair and neutral judiciary seems quaint, if not impossible, the justice seemed committed to the pretense that Supreme Court justices remain above and separate from the political fray.
Instead, Breyer was there to talk about literary classics with his interviewer, Michael Kahn, the artistic director of the Shakespeare Theatre Company. The two reflected on works by Shakespeare, Aeschylus, and Albert Camus. When the conversation veered even slightly toward politics, Breyer happily sidestepped with abstract reflections.