Ogletree class draws Justice Breyer, Jesse Jackson

BY CLINTON DICK

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Professor Charles Ogletree has been busy this week entertaining guests in his Criminal Law class. On Monday Jesse Jackson made an appearance in his class, only to be followed on Wednesday by Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, who took questions from Ogletree for the benefit of the Criminal Law class.

“Have you created a culture where the Supreme Court continues to do less and less,” Ogletree asked, referencing the fewer cases the Court hears each year as opposed to past years.

“It is a very good question and the answer is we don’t know,” Breyer responded. “A lot of people are asking the question because in the past the Court was deciding 130 and 140 cases [per] [year]. I don’t have an answer why the current Court is only deciding 80 cases. I think if we went beyond 100 it would be too cursory. If you ask if we could take 120, I would be nervous. If you asked whether I think 80 is too few, I would say yes.”

As fitting an equal branch of government, the Court has been at the center of public debate with its recent decisions on sodomy, campaign finance, and affirmative action. This year will prove to be no different since the Court agreed to hear the Guantanamo cases. Breyer said about that case, “I think we would have taken the Guantanamo case … whether there was a split or wasn’t a split. I know that because there was not a split when we took it, though there is one now.”

While Ogletree engaged Breyer in questions, the justice spent most of his time in class doing what he did before his Supreme Court appointment, engaging students in discussion about a particular case. One can only speculate that Breyer has honed his skills since leaving the Law School by grilling lawyers during oral arguments.

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