Posts Tagged ‘Sandra Day O’Connor’

O’Connor: “I am no longer able to participate in public life”

Retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor has released a letter to the public about her declining health. O’Connor is rightly admired for her inspiring life story and unswerving loyalty to the highest civic principles as well as the ideals of the judiciary. Even at this difficult moment of her life, as the letter shows, she is intent on advancing the res publica.

That O’Connor was the swing Justice of her day did not mean that her role on the Court came down to trimming or compromise. Together with fellow Arizonan Rehnquist, no one was more central in the Court’s reinvigoration of federalism, drawing on her record as the only Justice of our era with extensive service in a state legislature. She has led public discussion in the right direction on issues ranging from professional responsibility and race and redistricting to judicial elections.

And as I noted in 2005, if a single jurist deserves our thanks for helping turn back what had seemed like an irresistible trend toward ever more litigiousness in the civil justice system, it is she. “More vocally than any of her present colleagues, Justice O’Connor sounded the alarm against what she’s termed ‘the increasing, and on many levels frightening, overlegalization of everyday life in our country today.'” Her leading role on such issues as due process review of punitive damages reflected that view. For that, as well as for her notice of my work along the way, count me among the grateful.

…and gerrymandering by race at the Supreme Court

Yesterday, in Bethune-Hill v. Virginia State Board of Elections, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that a lower court had been too indulgent toward race-based drawing of district lines, a process subject to scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause. Although the decision makes at most a small difference in the law, I write at Cato that the Court’s relatively unified stand serves as a testament to the far-sightedness of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who was roundly excoriated in the New York Times and elsewhere after warning in a landmark 1993 decision that “Racial gerrymandering, even for remedial purposes, may balkanize us into competing racial factions.” Two more views: Rick Hasen, Richard Pildes. (Also reprinted Newsweek; and see Kimberly Strawbridge Robinson, BNA Bloomberg coverage, thanks for quotes).

Ethics roundup

  • Wilkes-Barre, Pa.: “one of the most egregious cases of attorney theft of clients’ escrow funds that I have seen” [ABA Journal]
  • Chamber cheers Wisconsin for enacting strongest sunshine law for state hiring of outside contingency-fee lawyers [U.S. Chamber/Business Wire]
  • Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s contributions on professional responsibility and the role of the legal profession [Steven Hobbs, SSRN]
  • “Mississippi Supreme Court sanctions judge for refusing to step aside in asbestos suit” [ Walter L. Cofer, Greg Fowler and Simon Castley, Lexology]
  • Alameda County ex-judge gets 5 years of probation in theft from elderly neighbor [ABA Journal, earlier here, etc.]
  • Study: Wisconsin high court justices tend to side with attorney donors [Fed Soc Blog]
  • Suit by Garlock claims misconduct by opposing asbestos lawyers including concealment of exposure and implantation of memories [Chamber-backed Legal NewsLine, related] A Lone Star State asbestos litigation revival? [Eric Lasker and Richard Faulk, WLF]

January 22 roundup

  • Early reactions to Supreme Court’s blockbuster Citizens United ruling striking down ban on independent election advocacy [Point of Law, more, yet more]
  • Vision Media Television Group continues its legal push against online critics, Section 230 or no [Consumer Law & Policy, earlier]
  • Big FBI sting operation could leave firearms business “wounded”, some say [Point of Law]
  • Runaway’s suit against McKeesport, Pa. school district dismissed on statute of limitations grounds [AP/]
  • “Sandra Day O’Connor Backs Campaign to End Judicial Elections” [Schwartz, NY Times, my two cents]
  • “Sheriff Joe’s Enabler” [Radley Balko on Maricopa County D.A. Andrew Peyton Thomas; earlier here, here, etc.]
  • Why some D.C. lawyers make so much money year in, year out [Hill & Lat, Washingtonian, quotes Ted; Ribstein and more]
  • “Hampshire woman jailed for false rape claim” [BBC]
  • P.S. At this point, politically, Dems almost have to pass something labeled health care reform whether or not the resulting legislation makes any sense [my comment in National Journal blogger’s poll, more]

Heather Mac Donald on Dahlia Lithwick

Dahlia Lithwick got her start in Slate with the innovation of covering the Supreme Court almost entirely in terms of what jokes were told at the oral argument. Now, gossipy legal humor has entertainment value, and Lithwick’s essays had a legitimate role in the context of providing added value for an Internet magazine whose main advantage over competing media sources was the ability to put writing out there in a breezier and quicker fashion than a newspaper. But the legal analysis was often slipshod, and Lithwick would freely admit her ignorance and instead focus on which Supreme Court Justice she’d most like to hug or the build of the lawyers. Yet Lithwick has parlayed being the Slate “Supreme Court correspondent” into a regular gig doing serious analysis and op-eds in purportedly more serious media outlets. The results often aren’t pretty. Heather Mac Donald puts her thumb precisely on the problem and points out how vapid Lithwick’s analysis of Justice O’Connor’s career is (via Point of Law). Lithwick makes the mistake of criticizing O’Connor’s decisions as lacking sufficient empathy for the sympathetic losing party (though, as Mac Donald points out, Lithwick’s sympathy is inconsistent within the same paragraph in the op-ed). Legal reporting all too often has the flaw of describing cases as a question of picking the most deserving winner, divorcing this question from the real issue of the neutral application of legal rules; this is a problem that all too often trickles down to some judges and jury decisions. And it’s a sad commentary on the state of legal education when a Stanford Law graduate doesn’t give any signs of knowing better.