O’Connor, Breyer preside over GrassRoots TV studio session | AspenTimes.com

O’Connor, Breyer preside over GrassRoots TV studio session

Greg Schreier

Mark Fox/The Aspen TImes

Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and current Justice Stephen Breyer tossed aside the gavels and robes Thursday to talk current affairs in the GrassRoots TV studio.PBS talk show host Aaron Harber was in town for the Aspen Ideas Festival, grabbing as many people he could for interviews on his self-titled talk show. They talked in the small studio about what issues the Supreme Court and the judicial branch face today.Harber asked to use the studio, and GrassRoots granted his request so long as the station could air the shows recorded in Aspen. GrassRoots TV executive director John Masters was thrilled and said Aspen is one of the few communities that has opportunities such as this.”This does not happen at any other community TV station in the country,” Masters said. “It’s so unpretentious. It’s kind of funky. It’s very different than going into a big television studio.”

The justices talked about life behind the bench – not just for them, but for the entire judicial system.”It isn’t fair for a judge to be influenced by politics” or corrupted, O’Connor said. The job of judges isn’t to pander to opinions – even popular ones – but “to decide the case according to the Constitution of the United States.”But Breyer cautioned people not to judge their adjudicators in haste, as they are made of the same flesh under those robes.”Judges, too, are capable of errors,” Breyer said.Breyer and O’Connor also talked about some of the system’s flaws, especially with civil suits. Frivolous lawsuits and outrageous damage awards are common, but it’s not necessarily something judges can fix. Instead, laws need to curtail those problems.

“These are legislative decisions to be made, not judicial ones,” O’Connor said.Breyer strongly advocated balance to maintain justice. Judges shouldn’t have too much power in a courtroom, but neither should a plaintiff.”I don’t believe it should be all power to the lawyers, I don’t believe it should be all power to the judge,” Breyer said.Breyer and O’Connor are speaking at various ideas festival forums, and Masters said they won’t be the only festival figures on the station’s programming. GrassRoots is also taping many of the sessions to air throughout the summer.

The point of airing the forums and interviews is to expand people’s access to information – essential to the First Amendment, Masters said. GrassRoots aired 55 forums from last year’s festival, he said.”There’s a lot of folks in the valley that aren’t going to be able to see these people at the Ideas Festival,” Masters said. “People should be able to see these long-form interviews.”Plus, the unimposing studio and laid-back atmosphere in Aspen can make for more candid interviews.”We get to see them as human beings,” Masters said.Greg Schreier’s e-mail address is gschreier@aspentimes.com