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U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer to Deliver Commencement Address to Northeastern School of Law Graduates

Margot Botsford, Associate Justice for the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, to receive an honorary doctorate

March 17, 2008 – U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer will deliver the commencement address at the Northeastern School of Law graduation ceremony on May 23.Justice Breyer is renowned as a champion of “active liberty” –the active role of citizens in shaping their government.

Nearly 200 students will receive their juris doctor degree during the commencement ceremony, which will take place on Friday, May 23 at 1 p.m. at Northeastern’s Matthews Arena. Northeastern will also present Associate Justice Breyer with the honorary doctorate of laws during the ceremony.

“Justice Breyer serves in one of our country’s most challenging and most important positions,” said Northeastern President, Joseph E. Aoun. “The decisions he makes will influence our nation and its citizens for generations to come, and we are honored that he will deliver the commencement address to our new law school graduates in May.”

Associate Justice Breyer, a self-described “pragmatist interested more in solutions than theories,” was nominated by President William Clinton in 1994 to serve on the United States Supreme Court, replacing the seat left by Justice Harry Blackmun. Confirmed by a Senate vote of 87-9, Associate Justice Breyer took his seat on August 3, 1994. Associate Justice Breyer has been successful in building consensus among Democrats and Republicans, leading to his widespread respect as a Justice of the highest court in the country.

Since serving on the Supreme Court, Associate Justice Breyer has been noted for how he interprets the Constitution. He emphasizes the importance of interpreting laws beyond their literal meaning, focusing on the purpose and consequences of the law and not relying solely on historical interpretation to solve today’s problems. His 2005 book, Active Liberty: Interpreting our Democratic Constitution, presents his view that the Constitution was created to provide citizens with liberty, and that this is best achieved when citizens take an active role in their government. “I say ‘active liberty’ because I want to stress that democracy works if — and only if — the average citizen participates,” Associate Justice Breyer once stated in an interview on National Public Radio.

Associate Justice Breyer has already made his mark on the Supreme Court. In 2000, he ruled against the decision that took regulatory powers for tobacco away from the Food & Drug Administration. In 2007, Associate Justice Breyer ruled against a decision that stated race could not be a factor when placing students into public schools, a highly debated topic. He has also ruled on cases relating to campaign finance, prison sentencing, abortion rights, privacy and the separation of church and state.

After receiving his juris doctorate from Harvard Law School, Associate Justice Breyer served in numerous positions within the federal judiciary system. His drive to succeed is illustrated by his career path, starting as a law clerk for former Associate Justice Arthur Goldberg, followed by a two-year position as special assistant for U.S. Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust. In 1973, Associate Justice Breyer served as an assistant special prosecutor on the Watergate Special Prosecution Force, a group that investigated and prosecuted President Nixon for his involvement with the Watergate Scandal. Shortly thereafter, Associate Justice Breyer served on the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary as special counsel, which led to his appointment to Chief of the committee in 1979.

Associate Justice Breyer continued to move up the ranks, and in 1980, was nominated by President Jimmy Carter to serve as a Judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals First Circuit, housed in Boston. After serving ten successful years, he was granted the position of Chief Judge, which he carried out for the four years prior to being nominated to serve on the Supreme Court. During that time, Associate Justice Breyer was also a member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, where he helped build uniformity in criminal sentencing under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.

Associate Justice Breyer also found a niche in higher education. Between 1967-1994, he was an assistant professor, professor and a lecturer of law, all at Harvard Law School. He was also a professor at the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government, as well as a visiting professor at both the College of Law in Sydney, Australia and the University of Rome, Italy.

“Justice Breyer has consistently worked to devise effective solutions in this ever-changing world,” said Emily Spieler, Dean of Northeastern School of Law. “Building on the breadth of his experiences, he brings both pragmatism and vision to the challenges presented to the Court.”

The Honorable Margot Botsford, appointed by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick in 2007 to serve as an Associate Justice for the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, will also receive an honorary doctorate of public service during the commencement ceremony. Associate Justice Botsford, who received her juris doctor from Northeastern School of Law and now serves on Northeastern’s Board of Trustees, is actively involved with the legal community as a member of the Massachusetts Bar Association, the Boston Bar Association, and the National Association of Women Judges.

Prior to her appointment to Associate Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, Botsford served for 18 years as the Associate Justice of the Massachusetts Superior Court. Her longstanding career in the state’s judicial system includes serving as Assistant Attorney General under Massachusetts Attorney General Francis X. Bellotti, followed by holding the Assistant District Attorney position under Middlesex County District Attorney Scott Harshbarger. Associate Justice Botsford has also taught at Northeastern School of Law, Boston University Law School, the National Judicial College and the Flaschner Judicial Institute.

About Northeastern School of Law

Northeastern University School of Law is distinguished by its Cooperative Legal Education Program and its commitment to public interest law. The school offers a three-year course of study that alternates terms of traditional academic study with terms of full-time professional employment in 750 law offices, nonprofit and legal aid agencies and courts nationwide and around the world.

About Northeastern

Founded in 1898, Northeastern University is a private research university located in the heart of Boston. Northeastern is a leader in interdisciplinary research, urban engagement, and the integration of classroom learning with real-world experience. The university’s distinctive cooperative education program, where students alternate semesters of full-time study with semesters of paid work in fields relevant to their professional interests and major, is one of the largest and most innovative in the world. The University offers a comprehensive range of undergraduate and graduate programs leading to degrees through the doctorate in six undergraduate colleges, eight graduate schools, and two part-time divisions. For more information, please visit

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