The American Bar Association will present the ABA Medal, its highest honor, to the Honorable Stephen G. Breyer, recently retired associate justice of the United States Supreme Court. Breyer will accept the award at the association’s Annual Meeting in Chicago on Aug. 6.
Breyer, who has been a member of the ABA since 1988, retired at the end of this current term after 28 years on the Supreme Court.
“I am greatly honored to receive the ABA Medal,” Breyer said. “To me, the medal represents the American Bar Association. The ABA represents the bar. The bar represents the legal profession. And the legal profession represents the rule of law throughout the United States and the rest of the world.”
Breyer has a long involvement with the association, speaking to ABA conferences, annual meetings and special events on numerous occasions where he recognized the ABA as a forum for the important exchange of legal ideas. As a judge on the 1st Circuit in 1994, Breyer was active in the Section of Administrative Law & Regulatory Practice and was in line to become vice chair but had to withdraw when he was nominated to the Supreme Court.
Breyer delivered a keynote address at the 2002 ABA Annual Meeting and spoke virtually to the ABA General Assembly in 2020. In 2021, he was a featured virtual speaker for the April annual meeting of the Section of International Law and made a similar appearance in March 2016.
Among his many other appearances at ABA programs, he joined Justice Sandra Day O’Connor to discuss civic literacy at the 2011 Annual Meeting.
“We could not find a more deserving recipient of our association’s highest honor, the ABA Medal,” said ABA President Reginald Turner. “Justice Breyer is a giant in the legal world who has dedicated nearly 50 years of his career to public service. His support of the ABA, coupled with his commitment to the rule of law and his profound contributions to making our democracy function fairly, is truly inspiring.”
During his extraordinary career as a public servant, Breyer has staunchly promoted judicial independence, criticized the death penalty as unfair, and transformed the field of administrative law to make it more pragmatic.
The ABA Medal is bestowed upon a lawyer for “exceptionally distinguished service ... to the cause of American jurisprudence.” Past recipients include lawyers who have served on the Supreme Court of the United States, including Chief Justices Warren E. Burger and Charles Evans Hughes, and Associate Justices Lewis F. Powell, Jr., Sandra Day O’Connor, Thurgood Marshall, William J. Brennan, Anthony M. Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Tom Clark and Felix Frankfurter.