Retired Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer has joined Justice Neil Gorsuch as the co-chair of the National Constitution Center's board amid growing skepticism of the Supreme Court's independence and accusations of partisanship.
The National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on Thursday announced Breyer has been elected honorary co-chair of the Center's Board of Trustees, joining Gorsuch, who has served since 2019. The non-partisan group focuses on education about the U.S. Constitution.
Previous chairs include President Joe Biden, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, former President Bill Clinton, and the late President George H.W. Bush.
"I am honored to join the National Constitution Center in its efforts to educate Americans about the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law," Breyer said in a statement, "The nonpartisan work of the National Constitution Center is essential, and I look forward to working with Justice Gorsuch to promote civil dialogue and debate."
Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch stands during a group photo at the Supreme Court in Washington, April 23, 2021. Retired Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer has become the honorary co-chairman of a nonpartisan group devoted to education about the Constitution. Breyer joins Gorsuch at a time of intense political polarization and rising skepticism about the court's independence.(Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP, Pool, File)
"Justice Breyer and I share a commitment to inspiring Americans to learn about the U.S. Constitution," Gorsuch said in a statement. "I look forward to working together with the National Constitution Center to champion civic education in the years ahead."
The appointment puts Breyer, a member of the court's liberal wing during his service, alongside Gorsuch, one of the court's staunchest conservatives, in a non-partisan endeavor at a time when the high court is being viewed with increasing skepticism and faces accusations of making political decisions.
A July poll from the Marquette University Law School found approval of the Supreme Court sitting at just 38 percent, down from 44 percent in May and 54 percent in March.
The approval drop comes after a court term that saw the six-member conservative majority issue several controversial decisions, most notably Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, which struck down Roe v. Wade and ended the constitutional right to an abortion.
In his nearly three decades on the Supreme Court, Breyer was known as a consensus builder, often trying to craft opinions that would please as many members of the court as possible.
More recently, he has been outspoken on the state of the nation's politics and how it could threaten the Supreme Court. He wrote a book, "The Authority of the Court and the Peril of Politics," in which he warns the political polarization seen today could undermine public confidence in the Court.
Breyer maintains, though, that the current Court is not captured by political interests.
"Political groups may favor a particular appointment," he wrote in the book, "but once appointed, a judge naturally decides a case in the way that he or she believes the law demands. It is a judge's sworn duty to be impartial, and all of us take that oath seriously."
National Constitution Center President and CEO Jeffrey Rosen emphasized in his own statement the importance of two philosophically opposed jurists working together on the common goal of constitutional education.
"In this polarized time, all of us at the National Constitution Center are thrilled to have Justice Breyer and Justice Gorsuch providing leadership as we fulfill our mission to serve as America's leading platform for nonpartisan constitutional education and civil dialogue," he said.
Breyer will also return to teaching at Harvard Law School, where he worked for 13 years before President Jimmy Carter appointed him to the federal judiciary.