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

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost-Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More