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

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power 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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid