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Justice Breyer Assigned to Pritzker Prize Jury Duty

By Robyn Hagan Cain | Last updated on

Justice Stephen Breyer never fails to impress.

He officiates weddings, and stays on top of social media trends. He suffers injuries in two bike crashes, and continues cycling. He addresses law school graduates in three languages during the course of a single speech.* And somehow, between hobbies, speeches, exercise, and a rather demanding day job, he finds time to judge the preeminent architecture award, the Pritzker Prize.

This will not be Justice Breyer's first experience passing judgment on architects. Breyer was intimately involved in designing Boston's John Joseph Moakley U.S. Courthouse when he served as chief judge for the First Circuit Court of Appeals in the 1980s.

Justice Breyer has been interested in art and architecture for years, and even wrote the foreword to the 2006 architecture book, Celebrating the Courthouse: A Guide for Architects, Their Clients, and the Public, reports The New York Times.

But shouldn't Supreme Court justices reserve their judgments for the bench?

Not necessarily.

While issuing advisory opinions is verboten - the Court can only hear cases and controversies - judging outside of the Supreme Court is not unheard of among The Nine. The jurists, however, usually save their out-of-court opinions for lighter legal fare instead of global architecture awards.

To wit: Justice Elena Kagan will be serving as a judge for next year's George Washington Law School constitutional law moot court competition, an event that Justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito, and Chief Justice John Roberts have previously judged.

The Pritzker Prize is awarded annually in the spring to a living architect for significant "contributions to humanity and the built environment." The Pritzker jury travels to buildings designed by the nominees. Justice Breyer will not be paid for Pritzker jury duty, reports the Chicago Tribune.

*We don't know why the record doesn't reflect that Justice Breyer addressed the crowd in French and Spanish, but we were there, we heard it, and it was très impressionnant.

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