Justice Stephen Breyer received a touching tribute from Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts on Wednesday after 28 years on the nation’s high court.
According to The Associated Press, Breyer sat through the last of more than 2,000 arguments as his wife, Joanna, sat in the courtroom to see his last day as one of the most important people in the world.
The publication reported that at the end of a case about Oklahoma’s authority to prosecute people accused of crimes on Native American Lands, Roberts paid tribute to Breyer for his nearly three decades on the court:
“For 28 years, this has been his arena for remarks profound and moving, questions challenging and insightful, and hypotheticals downright silly,” Roberts said.
“We leave the courtroom with deep appreciation for the privilege of sharing this bench with him,” he said, his voice cracking with emotion, The Washington Times added of the chief justice’s comments.
According to the AP, “The fertile mind of Justice Stephen Breyer has conjured a stream of hypothetical questions through the years that have, in the words of a colleague, ‘befuddled’ lawyers and justices alike.”
During an interview previously granted to the AP Breyer acknowledged the sometimes strange nature of his questions:
“The point is to try to focus on a matter that is worrying me. Sometimes it’s easier to do that with an example,” he said in 2008, and he didn’t spare himself the jokes: “I mean, we could stay here a long time, which we won’t, listing things I don’t know,” he said in court last week.
Possibly one of the most unexpected results of Breyer’s lines of questioning is when he incited a laugh from the ever-stoic Justice Clarence Thomas or a grin from the more recently added Brett Kavanaugh.