Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer Visits Ralph Nader Tort Museum in Winsted Connecticut

In 1994, President Bill Clinton nominated Stephen Breyer to be a Justice of the US Supreme Court.

Tort Museum Executive Director Rick Newman and Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer

Consumer advocate Ralph Nader testified against the nomination, telling the Senate Judiciary Committee Breyer was “extraordinarily one-sided” in favor of big business in cases involving competition and government regulation.

The New York Times reported at the time that Breyer had written two books about government regulation, “in which he argues that much of the money spent on health and safety is misdirected because of distorted public priorities that come from sensational news reports.”

“Mr. Nader, who founded Public Citizen, a study and advocacy group based in Washington, said Judge Breyer’s writings and actions as a judge always ‘just happen to please corporatists who do not welcome health and safety regulation,’” the Times reported.

Fast forward twenty four years.

Apparently, Justice Breyer does not hold a grudge.

Last month, on September 28, Justice Breyer stopped by Winsted, Connecticut to visit the Nader inspired American Museum of Tort Law.

It was a one hour tour of the museum exhibits.

In addition to his two books on regulation, Breyer is also author of the book Active Liberty: Interpreting Our Democratic Constitution (Vintage Books, 2006).

Active liberty — an idea akin to Nader’s idea of “public citizens” being central to a vibrant democracy.

“The United States is a nation built upon principles of liberty,” Breyer wrote. “That liberty means not only freedom from government coercion but also the freedom to participate in the government itself.”

Breyer says that the founders of the country “invoked an idea of freedom as old as antiquity — the freedom of the individual citizen to participate in the government and thereby to share with others the right to make or to control the nation’s public acts.”

Tort Museum executive director Rick Newman toured Justice Breyer and his party through the exhibits at the museum.

“We were honored and delighted to have the opportunity to give Justice Breyer a tour of the Tort Museum,” Newman said. “His writings on the notion of active liberty align perfectly with our mission of public education about the benefits of tort law and trial by jury. It was an interesting and informative meeting and discussion as we toured the exhibits here at the museum.”

There were no reporters present. And the citizens of Winsted were apparently not aware that a Supreme Court Justice was visiting their town.

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