Sandra Day O'Connor says rulings are being 'dismantled'
Sandra Day O'Connor
By Joan Biskupic, USA TODAY
WILLIAMSBURG, Va. — Retired Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O'Connor says she regrets that some of her decisions "are being dismantled" by the current Supreme Court.
O'Connor, who generally has avoided questions on the substance of the court under Chief Justice John Roberts, made the observation during a wide-ranging and unusually candid panel discussion over the weekend.
Asked how she felt about the fact that the current court had undone some of her rulings, the nation's first woman justice responded, "What would you feel? I'd be a little bit disappointed. If you think you've been helpful, and then it's dismantled, you think, 'Oh, dear.' But life goes on. It's not always positive."
O'Connor, appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1981, was a moderate conservative who often brokered compromises among justices and across ideological lines.
Since she retired in 2006, the court has become more conservative and retreated from some rulings in which she crafted consensus, including on abortion rights, campaign finance and government race-based policies.
GINSBERG'S TAKE: Says Supreme Court needs diversity
During the Saturday panel sponsored by the William and Mary Law School, O'Connor emphasized the value of diversity on the bench — in sex, professional experience, geography and religion.
She said she was glad another woman was on the court. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the third woman justice in history and the first Latina, succeeded David Souter in August. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the other woman on the court. "It's not enough," O'Connor declared.
3 of 9 is 33%, and women make up +50% of population. In the above link to Justice Ginsburg's comments, she says another woman is needed on the Court. I agree.
O'Connor, a former legislator in Arizona, said it was important for a president to pick justices from a variety of backgrounds. All nine of the current justices were elevated from U.S. appeals courts. "I don't think we should have nine clones up there," O'Connor said.
Asked about regional diversity, she said, "I don't think they should all be of one faith, and I don't think they should all be from one state." On the court are now a record six Catholics; two are Jewish; one, Protestant.
O'Connor, 79, lapsed into levity during the discussion when asked what it was like to appear on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart last March. In a mock whisper she said, "I didn't know what to think. I had never seen it."