Saturday, July 02, 2005

With Justice Sandra O'Connor's announced retirement, I'm reading a good amount of laudatory editorials -- perhaps containing a bit too much praise. The Washington Post writes, "Her instincts were pragmatic. She had a pronounced tendency to decide cases on their facts, leaving herself room to shift gears when facts were different." And the NY Times describes her as a "sensible, pragmatic jurist."

That's all well and good, and given she's in the company of folks like Scalia and Thomas, being tagged "sensible" and "pragmatic" is a no-brainer in a relative sense. However, please, let us not forget one huge decision she made: to side with the 5-4 majority that voted to effectively award the disputed 2000 presidential election to Bush. Also recall that O'Connor reportedly said to her husband that she would be reluctant to retire if a Democrat were in the White House.

It's bad enough that in 2000 she was on the side of one of the worst Supreme Court decisions in history, with many legal scholars at the time stating this fact. But then to apparently have done so due to something as selfish as this legacy concern is really not especially honorable (!).

Has she been one of the better jurists on the Court? As I already alluded to, when you consider the likes of Thomas and Scalia, she has been indeed. However, let's not get carried away.

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