1. Stephen Gerald Breyer was born Aug. 15, 1938, in San Francisco. His father, Irving, was an attorney for the city's public schools. His mother, Anne, was an active Democrat and a volunteer for the League of Women Voters. His younger brother, Charles, was a defense attorney who was appointed as a federal judge by President Clinton in 1997.
2. Breyer attained the rank of Eagle Scout at age 12 and was generally known as the "troop brain." As a teenager, he held summer jobs mixing salad at a summer camp and digging ditches for Pacific Gas and Electric. He was a member of the debate team at Lowell High School in San Francisco; one of his rivals was Jerry Brown, later governor of California. In a 1994 interview, his high school debate coach was quoted as saying, "You can spot the potential lawyers early.... He would do copious research on a debate topic while other kids were out, you know, doing things like stealing hubcaps." He was voted "most likely to succeed" when he graduated from high school in 1955 with only one B.
3. His mother persuaded him to attend college at Stanford instead of Harvard; she was afraid he would become too bookish. At one point during his college career, he was reportedly arrested for underage drinking. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa and went on to Oxford University as a Marshall scholar. Breyer returned to the United States and from 1961 to 1964 attended law school at Harvard, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review and graduated magna cum laude.
4. After graduating from Harvard, Breyer clerked for Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg. He later joined the faculty of Harvard Law. In 1973, he was an assistant special prosecutor on the Watergate investigation. Breyer was appointed as special counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee by Sen. Edward Kennedy and championed the deregulation of the airline industry.
5. He met his wife, Joanna, when he was 28 at a party in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Her father was a leader of the Conservative Party in England, and she was working for the London Sunday Times. They were married in 1967 at a village church in Suffolk, England. She is a psychologist for pediatric cancer patients at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and an instructor at Harvard Medical School.
6. Breyer is known as an intellectual with a wide range of interests. He loves to cook and reportedly shopped at the same Cambridge gourmet stores that Julia Child favored. His hobbies include bird-watching and biking. Breyer was hit by a car in 1993 while riding his bicycle, and the accident left him with broken ribs and a punctured lung. That did not deter him from leaving the hospital, however, to meet with President Clinton in Washington when Clinton was considering nominating him to the Supreme Court. (He lost out to Ruth Bader Ginsburg the first time around.)
7. In 1987, he was a member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, a group that recommended the jail time that criminals convicted in federal courts should receive.
8. Breyer helped design Boston's new federal courthouse in the 1990s. He interviewed architects, met with community groups, and visited courts around the United States to get ideas. The courthouse is located on the waterfront and was designed by architects who also built the Louvre's famed pyramid in Paris, the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, and the John F. Kennedy Library. Breyer said of the location, "This most beautiful site in Boston...does not belong to the lawyers, it does not belong to the federal government, it does not belong to the litigants. It belongs to the people."
9. Clinton nominated Breyer in 1994 to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun. He was unanimously endorsed by the Judiciary Committee and approved 87 to 9 by the Senate after a week of hearings (Sen. Richard Lugar led the opposition). Breyer said in an interview that before the nomination he had heard nothing for three weeks until Clinton called him 30 minutes before the official announcement. "It happened very quickly," he said. "I had heard nothing. Then he called, and I was really very humbled."
10. In his nomination hearings, Breyer said that the Constitution is there "to guarantee people the rights that will enable them to lead lives of dignity." In a 2005 interview with Charlie Rose, Breyer talked with him about his recently published book, Active Liberty. He said, "The main thing I would like people to understand about the Constitution is that it does not decide how people in America should live their lives. That its basic object is to create a democratic form of government, a form of government that has limits, but within those limits there is enormous space for people to make up their own minds about how they want to live together in their communities."
Dana Farber Cancer Center
Encyclopedia of World Biography
Facts on File
New York Times
Charlie Rose Show