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Breyer award brews controversy

As college award recipient choices go, Supreme Court justices are generally pretty uncontroversial. But at a New York school, the selection of Justice Stephen Breyer to receive an award tomorrow night has courted protests from some students, alumni and even the leader of the Catholic Church in New York.

Tomorrow night Breyer is scheduled to be at Fordham University to accept the Fordham-Stein Ethics Prize. But more than 1,000 members of the Fordham community have signed a petition circulated by the Cardinal Newman Society, a Manassas, Va.-based conservative Catholic group, calling for the award to be revoked.

The group has led a nationwide effort to stop Catholic colleges from selecting awardees who support abortion rights. Its beef with Breyer stems from his role in the 5-4 decision in the 2000 case Stenberg v. Carhart, in which the Court held that a Nebraska statute, criminalizing the performance of “partial birth abortions,” was unconstitutional. Breyer, who is not Catholic, wrote the majority decision in the case.

Breyer will be the seventh Supreme Court justice to receive the award from Fordham’s law school. Five of the past awardees from the high court voted in support of abortion rights. Their selection drew no protest.

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