Stephen Breyer Biography

(Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1994 to 2022)

Birthday: August 15, 1938 (Leo)

Born In: San Francisco, California, United States

Stephen Breyer is a jurist, legal teacher and lawyer who has been serving as an associate justice of United States Supreme Court since 1994. He was nominated by President Bill Clinton. His identity was not limited to just being an associate justice; in the sea of rising lawyers, Breyer stood out due to his pragmatic approach to the law. Cass Sunstein, an American legal scholar, praised Breyer by stating that “Breyer will tend to make the law more sensible.” Breyer is respected by every section of people due to his analytical approach to the Constitution, rather than ideological. He chooses to speak on topics that are considered taboo, both in a legal as well as a social context. For instance, Breyer has repetitively fought in favor of abortion rights which is one of the most controversial areas in the SC’s docket. He had also served in the Military of the United States in the strategic intelligence unit as a corporal. He has been and continues to be an inspiration for the upcoming generation of lawyers.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Stephen Gerald Breyer

Age: 85 Years, 85 Year Old Males


Spouse/Ex-: Joanna Freda Hare

father: Irving Gerald Breyer

mother: Anne Roberts Breyer

siblings: Charles Breyer

children: Chloe Breyer, Michael Breyer, Nell Breyer

Born Country: United States

Judges Lawyers

Ancestry: Romanian American

Notable Alumni: Magdalen College, Oxford

U.S. State: California

City: San Francisco, California

More Facts

education: Harvard University, Stanford University, Magdalen College, Oxford

awards: Legion of Honour
Brandeis Medal
James Parks Morton Interfaith Award
Marshall Scholarship

Childhood & Early Life

Stephen Breyer was born on 15 August 1938, in San Francisco, in a Jewish family. His mother, Anne A., and father, Irving Gerald Breyer, belonged to an upper middle-class family.

Breyer completed his graduation from Lowell High School, from there he moved to Stanford University where he mastered in Philosophy in 1959.

He got the Marshall Scholarship that allowed him to study economics, politics, and physics at Oxford’s Magdalen College.

He pursued law from Harvard, and Breyer graduated from there in the year 1964. During his term, he was inducted into the Harvard Law Review group.

Breyer gained more exposure during his six months stay at the United States Army Reserve, in the Army Strategic Intelligence. He attained the position of a corporal during his stay, for his performance.

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In 1964, Stephen Breyer assisted Justice Arthur Goldberg as a clerk. He was also appointed for checking facts for Warren Commission.

Breyer was the chief counsel of the United State’s Senate Judiciary Committee from the year 1974 to 1980 working on not only federal criminal code cases but airline and trucking deregulation as well.

Breyer was a full-time lecturer at Harvard Law School from the year 1967 up until 1994.

After taking a leave from the Harvard Law School teaching, he took up the role of an assistant prosecutor in the Watergate investigation.

The year 1980 was one of the highlight periods in his career. It was during this year he was appointed by President Carter to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. After this, Breyer was upgraded to the position of Chief Justice in 1990, succeeding Levin Campbell.

During his stay at Harvard, he proceeded to pen down two books—Regulation and Its Reform and Breaking the Vicious Circle: Toward Effective Risk Regulation.

Among Breyer’s literary works, the one which created much stir in the field of law was his skeptical views on copyright in the 1970s book The Uneasy Case for Copyright.

Breyer was one of the influential members of the commission that was set up to look into reforming the US way of sentencing (1985-1989). He played a major role in revamping the procedures for sentencing of federal criminals, thus introducing a new set of guidelines for federal sentencing that would bring uniformity in the structure.

Major Works

Stephen Breyer’s book, Active Liberty (2005), is one of his major contributions to the judicial system. This book is a written response to Antonin Scalia’s book, A Matter of Interpretation (1997), where he stressed upon the method of sticking to the original meaning of the text only. Breyer on the contrary, advises to adapt a more democratic viewpoint while reviewing the cases. Thus, ensuring maximum liberty for the citizens.

Making our Democracy Work: A Judge’s View (2010) is a book where Breyer suggested the addition of ‘purpose’ and ‘consequences’ as important interpretive tools for assigning proper meaning to a legal proceeding. He cited a few instances from the past cases to support his suggestion, why considering consequences of a judgment is pivotal in a ruling. For instance - the case of Worcester v. Georgia where due to the ruling a huge damage was done to the judicial system, and that of the Dred Scott decision which was an important trigger for the American Civil War.

Awards & Achievements

Stephen Breyer received the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award by the Boy Scouts of America in the year 2007.

Family and Personal Life

Stephen Breyer married his wife, Joanna, in 1967, at a village church in Suffolk, England. Joanna is a psychologist, and works with children suffering from cancer at Harvard Medical School.

Breyer has three children: Chloe, Nell and Michael. His eldest child, Chloe, is an episcopal priest.


Breyer has a keen interest in cooking. He also likes to go biking and watch birds in his spare time.

He was given the title of “troop brain” during his school days, owing to his Eagle Scout features.

Breyer was reportedly, arrested during his college years for underage drinking.

In 1993, Breyer meet with an accident during his bicycle ride. Soon after, he was diagnosed with broken ribs and punctured lungs, but these reasons weren’t enough to stop him from meeting Clinton regarding Breyer’s nomination to the Supreme Court.

See the events in life of Stephen Breyer in Chronological Order

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