As so often happens, presidents can get snookered when making appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court. Some of the most liberal justices were appointed by Republicans. Earl Warren, was nominated by Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower — who later was reputed to remark that nominating Warren for the Chief Justice seat was “The biggest damned-fool mistake I ever made.” Reliable liberal Justice John Paul Stevens still on the bench at age 89, was a Gerald Ford appointee. And Reagan appointed Anthony Kennedy, a leading proponent of the use of foreign and international law as an aid to interpreting the United States Constitution.
In honoring his campaign commitment to appoint the first woman to the high court, Ronald Reagan also gave us Justice Sandra O’Connor, who reveled in being the often disappointing “swing vote.”
After her nomination, a Washington Post headline proclaimed: “Reagan choice for court decried by conservatives but acclaimed by liberals.”
O’Connor played a most significant role on the Supreme Court on the issue of abortion. In both Planned Parenthood v. Casey and Stenberg v. Carhart, O’Connor’s single vote in support of abortion ensured the survival of Roe v. Wade.
She voted to uphold the constitutionality of the devastating McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill, and found a constitutional right to homosexual sodomy in Lawrence v. Texas. And along with her leftist colleague Ruth Bader Ginsburg, O’Connor has, like Kennedy, been a vigorous defender of citing foreign laws in U.S. judicial decisions. Here is her speech on legal globalization given at the Southern Center for International Studies.
In celebrating Roe v. Wade, the National Abortion Federation enthusiastically devoted a lengthy tribute to the O’Connor Legacy.
A political animal, O’Connor was elected to the Arizona state senate, and later (prior to the current system of judicial selection) campaigned, ran and won a seat on the Maricopa County Superior Court as a Republican. But she held enough attraction for liberal Democrat Bruce Babbitt, that the then-governor appointed her to the Arizona Court of Appeals. That fact alone should have given President Reagan pause.
Now the former justice appears on the pages of USA Today criticizing the fact that some of rulings are being “dismantled.”
And, O’Connor has recently decided the structure of Arizona’s government needs an overhaul and is forming a group to review the currently elected offices she believes should be appointed and the massive reconfiguration of the state legislature she envisions. In today’s political climate, it’s doubtful many citizens will be willing to cede their ability to cast a ballot over to surrogates to do that important job for them.
The Arizona Daily Sun carries a report on the “structural changes,” she thinks are needed. We advise you don’t begin this on an empty stomach.