Connecticut Forum Hosts Evening with Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer

Trinity College Students, Staff, and Faculty Listen in on Discussion of Politics and Legislation

​Hartford, Connecticut, October 12, 2017 – Trinity College students, staff, and faculty members were among the audience members present at the latest event in the Connecticut Forum series titled, “An Evening with Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer,” held on Thursday, September 28, at The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Hartford. The discussion was moderated by Norah O’Donnell of CBS This Morning and included questions from audience members, including those submitted by Trinity students and faculty. Trinity is an education partner of the Connecticut Forum, which supports open dialogue, lifelong learning, and the free and active exchange of ideas.

Moderator Norah O’Donnell speaks with Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer during the Connecticut Forum. Photos by Nick Caito, courtesy of The Connecticut Forum.
Throughout the 90-minute discussion in front of a sold-out crowd of 2,800, Breyer charmed the audience with his philosophical perspective and measured responses. As a means of conveying his message, Breyer recited quotes from the classics, for example, citing Cicero in his explanation of law’s role during war.

While the moderator, O’Donnell, posed several challenging questions, the justice was able to answer such questions in a manner that was sensitive to multiple perspectives. For example, when asked about the recent decision by the Court to legalize gay marriage, Breyer responded with, “Well, we decided that gay marriage was constitutionally required,” closing the discussion and drawing the audience’s applause.

Breyer made it clear that his examination of the law is a process that cannot and should not be rushed. “Your answer flows from consideration that is thoughtful, slow, and careful,” he said. When it comes to observing best practices in civil discourse, he said, “Simply listen to what someone else is saying.”

Members of the Trinity community expressed appreciation for the Connecticut Forum appearance. “Students in my classes thought it was terrific,” said Adrienne Fulco, associate professor of legal and policy studies and director of the Public Policy and Law program. “For the varied audience, it was a great opportunity, it was very lively, and included great questions with great answers. I’ve seen him many times and there were definitely certain issues he was not going to discuss.” Fulco added, “It was wonderful to be able to take these young people and spend an evening like that with them. Several students were in my honors seminar and were able to tell the other students in the class about what an excellent opportunity it was. Our relationship with the Connecticut Forum provides a wonderful opportunity for Trinity students to be actively engaged.”

Fulco and Trinity’s Title IX Coordinator Timothy Dunn are advisers for the Mock Trial Team at Trinity and attended the Bushnell event with several student team members. Dunn said, “The evening with Justice Breyer was one of the most informative and intellectually entertaining events I have been privileged to attend. Justice Breyer's candid discussion of the Court’s work, combined with his well-honed insight into American civil liberties, made for a timely and important contribution to discussions on current events.”

Trinity College President Joanne Berger-Sweeney (seated, fourth from left) sat beside Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer at the dinner held prior to the Connecticut Forum.
Law firm Day Pitney LLP was the lead sponsor of this Connecticut Forum event. Day Pitney partner Shawn Wooden ’91 is a Trinity College trustee and a member of the Connecticut Forum Board of Directors.

Breyer serves as associate justice on the Supreme Court of the United States. Holding degrees from Stanford, Oxford, and Harvard Law School, Breyer has taught for several years as a professor at both Harvard Law School and the Kennedy School of Government. Included on his resume are positions as a Supreme Court law clerk, a Justice Department lawyer, and chief counsel of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Connecticut Forum events are live, unscripted conversations among renowned experts and celebrities. The nonprofit organization’s mission is to encourage the free and active exchange of ideas in forums that inform, challenge, entertain, inspire, and build bridges among all people and organizations in the community. The next Forum event will be “A Moderated Conversation with Former First Lady Michelle Obama” on November 16. For a full schedule of upcoming Connecticut Forum programs, click here.

Written by Kyle M. McGrath ’18