Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer won't start giving full attention to his new job until next month, but he already appears in sync with the cautious court he's joined.
"I've realized people are very interested in what I'm about to say, and I'd better not say anything very interesting," Breyer told an American Bar Association audience recently.Despite his low-profile attitude, Breyer was to be guest of honor at a White House celebratory ceremony later Friday, repeating the oath of office he took Aug. 3 at Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist's vacation home in Vermont.
Breyer, still wrapping up his duties as chief judge of the Boston-based 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, has been working out of Justice David H. Souter's offices in the Supreme Court's Capitol Hill building. Souter is back home in Concord, N.H.
"He's in a transitional mode, mostly administrative things," court spokeswoman Toni House said of Breyer. "He won't really get moved in until Sept. 1 or shortly thereafter." The court's 1994-95 term begins Oct. 3, but the nine justices will meet in conference the previous week to prepare for that start.
Among Breyer's tasks: hiring law clerks and a second secretary, getting his chambers furnished and finding a place to live.
His first substantive action as a justice came Thursday when he joined an 8-1 court in restoring a black-majority congressional district in Louisiana for this year's elections.
Picked by President Clinton to replace the retired Harry A. Blackmun, Breyer will move into Blackmun's now-vacant office suite. It offers commanding views of the Capitol and Library of Congress.
Breyer, who won Senate confirmation by an 89-7 vote, is expected to fit in among the high court's moderate justices - Sandra Day O'Connor, David H. Souter, Anthony M. Kennedy and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Among those four, Souter appears to be the most liberal and Kennedy the most conservative on issues that closely divide the court.