Sandra Day O’Connor: The Most Gullible Jurist in America

So now we hear from Sandra Day O’Connor that she is “disappointed” that the Roberts Court has “dismantled” several of her rulings:

Asked how she felt about the fact that the current court had undone some of her rulings, the nation’s first woman justice responded, “What would you feel? I’d be a little bit disappointed. If you think you’ve been helpful, and then it’s dismantled, you think, ‘Oh, dear.’ But life goes on. It’s not always positive.”

To which one is entitled to ask: what in the world did she expect?  She retired in 2005, after the Bush Administration had run roughshod over a series of precedents, insisted on unaccountable executive power, ignored rulings it didn’t like, and — most directly on point — appointed a series of hard right-wing, movement conservative judges, many of whom had fiercely attacked her rulings.  Now, she is shocked, shocked, that they are doing these things.

I don’t know what is sadder: that she can be so gullible as to be surprised by this, or that she was effectively running the Court for more than a decade.

Reader Comments

2 Replies to “Sandra Day O’Connor: The Most Gullible Jurist in America”

  1. When Bush abrogated the ABM treaty–a treaty that had been ratified by the Senate–was that legal?

    Not exactly a typical Legal Planet question, but, to bring the question back home, couldn’t a future president simply pull out of an international climate change agreement?

  2. Hi Red —

    Two quick responses on that:

    1) Presumably, any climate change treaty would either be followed by or reflect domestic climate change law, which could not simply be abrogated unilaterally by the President. Even regulatory changes would have to go through notice-and-comment, and be subject to citizen suits. The Bush Administration found this out the hard way in a lot of cases, where it routinely got its clock cleaned for not providing evidence as to why it wanted to change regulations other than “we hate the environment.”

    2) IIRC, the ABM Treaty itself contained provisions for how the parties were to withdraw. Any climate change treaty would have the same, and I would be surprised if it were “the chief executive should inform the Conference of the Parties, and the Secretariat, and then it’s outta there.” Whether a Court would rule on whether unilateral Presidential withdrawal passed legal muster when it violated the treaty terms itself is another matter, although it will be more detailed and less amenable to political question nonjusticiability arguments than a bilateral arrangement such as the ABM Treaty or the US-Taiwan treaty of friendship.

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Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic – Land Use, the Environment and Loc…

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