Full Interview: Justice Stephen Breyer

ABC News' Jonathan Karl goes one-on-one with the Supreme Court justice on his book, "The Court and the World."
13:28 | 12/27/15

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Transcript for Full Interview: Justice Stephen Breyer
You argue it in your book it we should consider what's happening beyond our borders yet as he has to shape American walls. To conservatives this is the curriculum visceral reaction against this mean. Justice Scalia not directly responding to you respond to this idea. Said the notion that American launch conformed the loss of the rest of the world ought to be rejected out of when he said he conservatives that think this is just kind of crazy notion that we consider. Not American law in. Ruling America well. I'd say I've written this book for you. When I want to show people in the twenty years that I've been here there's been enormous change that many of our cases men. When he percent 15% maybe but considerable percent. Raise issues. Of American law. That require us to know quite a lot of what's going on beyond our shores to get the right answer. Wells treaty cases. Cases that the fund region or antitrust. Case is that the fund reach of our securities laws and now when you get it to major civil rights cases. I mean. Securities over here. Limitation of civil liberties over there. I mean we better know what's going on the world if we're going to answer those questions properly. To know what's going law is not necessarily accept the view of one or order not accept the view one for court. It is when coal a more informed attitude that you point out. In your book that the court has put limits on this idea. That the executive that the presidential blank check when it comes to national security when the courts rained that notion in. It's asking what ease the supreme court's role in striking that balance between security on one side. And civil liberties. Cicero. 2000 years ago Moore. In time of war. Ruble's fall silent. Now that was the court's attitude for a long gone. And outlet in world war two's. To set an 80000 American citizens of Japanese origin. Being removed from their homes and putting camps and this court in 1944. Upholding that without any evidence whatsoever. The outcome of that because there thinking what we can't run the war. So Roosevelt pastor at our hold survival is at stake. It is or so but that leads of the 70000 Americans being put in prison for two or three years without any reason. The question you're asking which is an excellent question. It's no blank check. What kind of check it. And why doesn't the court go further. And why does that spell out what you have to do. And why does it help people more about what's allowed and what's not allowed more time and you know what we don't go further in my opinion is we don't know audience. Now we're in a kind of man are. You want to go back to sister room. You want those 70000 Americans held without any cause during the war and no one reviewing it and lets you say yes to. You're in the business. Of deciding. How to. Way when we have to answer those questions in the future better have ways of finding out what's going on abroad including what other courts are doing we're not the only democracy in the world. Under FDR. In case you mention. Through World War II we sought 70000. American citizens of Japanese and put into these turned it. Do you think we can diversity something that happened again it will I think everywhere right and you think that it's wrong decide. It's still America long its government and that's true but there the reason there are cases like let's beavers. Which people all wrong before first sport. That case came along of course is courts. In. Racial segregation. I'm asking this a case you've written about extensively do you think it could happen again in the United States that they put 70000 Americans oh. Why why why did you I have no more view there that you do. I mean we've both doubted because we think that this country has developed a stronger traditions of civil liberties what do you think when you. Here Donald Trump come out. It in a proposed. And on one religious group coming. Neglected when I. I think every person United States has a right to an opinion on which expressed publicly. You have no pay jokingly. A judge. Has to do his best. Not to have an opinion. On political matters like that would be political. And if I happen opinion and my talk my wife. Went well. Trump and making the case for his ban on Muslims come into the country sites. FTR determine the Japanese. What do you make of that. That's his affair you had a major two cents. In the lethal injection case. And but it was inch thing you you said. Do you think it is highly likely that death penalty violates. The eighth amendment's as does the constitution forbids cruel and unusual punishment. The court last considered the question of whether death penalty. Itself in and of itself. Violates that ate the men. And for reasons that I set out some way more than forty pages in the opinion. I argued in justice Ginsburg agreed that the time has come to re examine that question. And you seem to lean pretty far forward what you where you at you or care stairs and on this. That's a fair there groups which. And you also pointed out in this forty pages if there are only 22 countries to carry it occasions. 2013. And only eight countries that it more than. To warm states. Why is that relevant I several other countries to remember the words. For crew. Man. You will. Now does that word as usual. Mean usual in the world. Or does it mean and usually on Wednesday. Some people think it means the world in their words grow so you decides that we got the words. The constant. And there's disagreement about. Do you try to go back and yet discern what the founders meant when he drafted that amendment when he wrote those words. Is that the the most important. It is a factor. Judges by and large in almost every case have six thing that they. One word. What they said. If you have a statute that says animal. Doesn't mean it's done. You can't interpret. The words or import. Did you vote in the history. And you look to the tradition habeas corpus what's the tradition. You look to the precedent. What is the precedent that interpreted. What is the purpose. Walk or those words there. And what are the consequences. Viewed in terms for. So I sometimes put it this way it is an oversimplification. But I will look back vary to try to find out what were the framers interest. What were the values they were trying to protect. I think values don't change they don't change. Circumstances did. George Washington. Did not know about the Internet. Early. Yeah active that the First Amendment. He's going to have something to say things he. Did you know about the first. When you first came to the court in 1994. There was no Twitter. There was no FaceBook there was no Google there was no Fox News there was no MSNBC. On. Under review with the world how to change for you how. It it's also. How is all I believe even on Twitter because I went to find out. I want to see what was your rain. Or revolution again. Do you have a Twitter account news. It's difficult for us. You. Do. And he can't comment about the presidential election so skewed but but there is going to be a presidential election I design you. Eleven a new president sworn in in January of 2017 there will be three justices will be. At least eighty years old you'll be 78. There's always present it really not come into account. When wait until you're ready when I retire at some point answered yes. Don't you. It isn't a factor who was the person that will be omni replace. The best people. Crest nearly. This person is president. We do not are right that person is president you would. Donald Trump he's president states Ted Cruz states. You won't decide you know what I was thinking about retiring stick around for a few warriors will be a lot of personal. Are. Grew older. Think about arm. As they grow older. Things. It's a hard person. As long as you're doing that. Yet to do the job. That's the so. Can experience those. But I'm out here just you know you want us direct question I realize that will who is president if factory you know your direct question. And I do human indirect. Aaron cancer. We're near the fifteen year anniversary of bush gore. I was. Fifteen years ago this month this court effectively. Decide a presidential election. Which are thinking. I talk about that the most interesting comment is really arteries said the most remarkable thing about cases something mr. Ramon. And that is that despite the fact is an important decision. Many affecting many many people. Certainly half the country anyway it was was thought it was bad. And it could've been role after role and were 54. Somebody's wrong. You're citing auto majorities. What was wrong okay. Despite that people did follow it and there were guns and there were paving stones thrown in the streets and you know I thought I came here I've seen a lot of disagreement. And here. I thought my gulp this disagreements sometimes. Is much worse than I've ever thought why does everybody agree with me who's right all the time in my. The answer to that is we are 350. Million or more people of many different points of view. People think a lot of different things in the country what is so terror. The nine judges of this court do disagree about certain things. If announcement thing but they do why is that such a bad thing in this kind of country. What's good about it is they'll resolve their differences on durable despite its that's straight. That's called the rule but erode confidence we see so many. Of these high profile cases beginning bush V gore means the ultimate example. Breaking down 54. Along ideological lines using its ideological I think it's more often. What it is factor 50%. Yes and walnut but what are you talking about I type that are only want to talk about. If the 20% that are thoughtful. Who's more likely reflect differences. Of philosophical. Out if you. Rather than differences of politics. It's it's sort of something. Basic and you think the constitution relates to people's lives. What you think the country is about what those words do in relation. People do have basic philosophical disagree and it's true. In those cases but I'm hear you saying. That this court is less divided people. That I think is true but I don't know how divided they think is did work in this for awhile. Politics to me is who's got the votes. Are you Republican are down. You popular or you won popular item on that here. Justice Breyer thank you for taking time to talk to us thank you think he really into it comes at you from.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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