Professor Ariela Dubler Introduces Justice Breyer at NYC Gathering

New York, Feb. 13, 2012—On January 26, Columbia Law School’s Ariela Dubler,  the George Welwood Murray Professor of Legal History, introduced U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen G. Breyer to a standing-room-only audience at the New York City–based Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS).

Justice Breyer delivered this year’s Bernard G. Segal Memorial Lecture in Law and Ethics, and was the latest in a line of Supreme Court justices who have appeared at JTS over the years.

“When I teach constitutional law to first-year Columbia Law students,” Dubler said in her introduction, “Justice Breyer’s opinions and his dissents provide some of the greatest moments in my class—moments of inspiration and, from my perspective, moments of really deep optimism. They provide the moments when I can offer to my students a vision of the Constitution not as some rigid or distant or ossified legal text, but rather as the flexible and workable basis for our government and for our legal order.”

Dubler then explained what makes Breyer’s opinions unique.

"His opinions offer a really inspiring vision of the Supreme Court as deeply engaged with the real world and deeply attune to the practical consequences of its decisions,” she said. “As a member of the Supreme Court, Justice Breyer has developed this powerful, pragmatic jurisprudence. He has developed a jurisprudence that emphasizes that the Constitution is at once situated in history and, equally importantly, adaptable, and thus capable of guiding our contemporary society.”

In his speech, “Making Our Democracy Work,” Justice Breyer examined such matters as why the American public accepts the Court’s decisions, what the Court must do to maintain the public’s trust, and how the American court system ensures the functioning of democracy.

The Bernard G. Segal Memorial lecture was established by JTS in honor of the late philanthropist who was the first Jewish president of the American Bar Association. This year’s event was co-sponsored by Columbia Law School and JTS’ Louis Finkelstein Institute for Religious and Social Studies. The discussion was moderated by Dubler and Rabbi Burton L. Visotzky, a member of the JTS faculty and the director of the Finkelstein Institute.

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