News / USA

Pioneering US Supreme Court Justice Wants More Women, Diversity on Court

Carolyn Weaver

Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor says she would like to see another woman join Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor on the Court, if Justice John Paul Stevens does decide to step down this year, as he has recently hinted he will.

O'Connor said she doesn't believe that different life experiences or sensibilities of women judges result in different decisions. "I think at the end of the day, a wise old woman and a wise old man are going to come to the same conclusion", she said.

Speaking at New York Law School on Tuesday, O'Connor, who in 1981 became the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court, said she also hoped for more diversity of professional backgrounds among future justices. All those now on the Court were nominated when they were serving on lower federal courts.

As for Justice Stevens, who is about to turn 90, she said, "He's been a very fine member of the court. He's so remarkable - even older than I am, and I'm awfully old. And he's very physically and mentally fit."

O'Connor also weighed in, albeit in a carefully judicial manner, on the flap over President Obama's criticism of a recent Supreme Court ruling at his January State of the Union address. Referring to the Court's 5-4 decision lifting most restraints on corporate and union spending in political campaigns, Mr. Obama told members of Congress and other dignitaries, including six Supreme Court Justices:

"With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests - including foreign corporations - to spend without limit in our elections," said President Obama. "Well, I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests, and worse, by foreign entities."

As Mr. Obama spoke, Justice Samuel Alito appeared to silently mouth the words "Not true."

O'Connor declined to comment on the propriety of either the President's criticism or on Justice Alito's response. But she predicted scarcer attendance by Justices at future State of the Union addresses.

O'Connor said "It is not much fun to go, because you put on a black robe and march in, and you're seated on the front row, your hands in the lap, you have no expression on your face, throughout the proceedings. You can clap when the president comes in and when he leaves and that's it, and it's very awkward."

She added, "I wouldn't be surprised if fewer justices attended in the future. There are always people who thought, 'Oh, do we have to go? Let's don't.'"

The decision in the campaign spending case, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, overturned much of a significant ruling that Justice O'Connor herself helped to craft in 2003, McConnell v. Federal Election Commission. And it bears upon a post-retirement cause: Since she left the Court in 2006, O'Connor has spoken out against the election of state judges, the method of selection in many states.

In her remarks in New York, O'Connor again urged an end to the practice, saying that if Supreme Court Justices had to stand for election and re-election they never would have voted to end school segregation or anti-miscegenation laws, as they did in Brown v. Board of Education and Loving v. Virginia.

In answer to another question, she discussed the decline in recent years in the number of cases accepted for review by the Supreme Court. If fewer cases are now being accepted, she said, "You ought to be grateful. The courts can really mess things up."

O'Connor was appointed by President Ronald Reagan and served 25 years before retiring to care for her husband, who died last year. The Texas-born justice, who turned 80 in March, referred to herself as just an unemployed cowgirl. But she has remained busy, serving as chancellor of the College of William & Mary in Virginia, and working to improve civic education in American public schools. The web site of that program, http://www.ourcourts.org, includes educational games aimed at children and teenagers

You May Like

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs