Sandra Day O`Connor on Government Reform



Federal-vs.-state issues are Court's most difficult cases

Despite the surprise and indignation of many in Congress that states could actually challenge the laws they pass, as Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Conner once noted, resolving such disputes has been one of the primary functions of the federal courts almost since the Constitution's inception

"[T]he task of ascertaining the constitutional line between federal and state power has given rise to many of the Courts most difficult and celebrated cases... The Court has resolved questions "of great importance and delicacy" in determining whether particular sovereign powers have been granted by the Constitution to the Federal Government or have been retained by the States."

With our court challenges, Virginia and the other states weren't doing anything but following what the Constitution prescribed.

Source: Last Line of Defense, by Ken Cuccinelli, p. 79 , Feb 12, 2013

2000 Bush v. Gore: Florida court ignored Supreme Court

Gore's counsel in Bush v. Gore, David Boies, had admitted the Florida legislature could not do what the Florida Supreme Court had done. Didn't that means the Florida court created new law? Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, for her part, sounded reproachful. She said, "I did not find really a response by the Florida Supreme Court to this court's remand" of Dec. 4. In other words, the Florida Supreme Court had simply ignored her bench's not-so-subtle directive to provide a cogent rationale for its Nov. 21 decision. The Florida Supreme Court had deliberately told the US Supreme Court to take a hike. Boies had no good answer. Scalia came in behind O'Connor, castigating the Florida court for counting 383 newly discovered Palm Beach County and Broward County ballots after being told not to do so by the US Supreme Court.
Source: Courage and Consequence, by Karl Rove, p.214 , Nov 2, 2010

Ethical restraints on advertising by lawyers

In her dissenting opinion on the case of Shapero v. Kentucky Bar Association, Justice O’Connor penned this dissenting opinion, which records her philosophy on professional ethics. Her point is worth noting:
“One distinguishing feature of any profession is that membership in that profession entails an ethical obligation to temper one’s selfish pursuit of economic success by adhering to standards of conduct that could not be enforced either by legal fiat or through the discipline of the market. Both the special privileges incident to membership in the profession, and the advantages those privileges give in the necessary task of earning a living, are the means to a goal that transcends the accumulation of wealth. That goal is public service.“
This case removed the ethical constraints on commercial advertising by lawyers.
Source: NSPE.org comments on lawyer advertisement ruling , Jul 2, 2005

Limit federal courts on state powers

The nine court members can be divided into three general alliances, but all of the justices have crossed ideological lines. The three conservative justices and two of the swing justices, including O’Connor, usually support states’ rights.

O’Connor sides with the conservative wing on limiting intrusions by federal courts on state powers. She also has a role as the centrist coalition builder.

Source: Reuters article in Boston Globe, p. A45 , Dec 1, 2000

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Other Justices on Government Reform: Sandra Day O`Connor on other issues:
Samuel Alito(since 2006)
Stephen Breyer(since 1994)
Ruth Bader Ginsburg(since 1993)
Elena Kagan(since 2010)
Anthony Kennedy(since 1988)
John Roberts(since 2005)
Sonia Sotomayor(since 2009)
Clarence Thomas(since 1991)

Former Justices:
Merrick Garland(nominated 2016)
Antonin Scalia(1986-2016)
John Paul Stevens(1975-2010)
David Souter(1990-2009)
Sandra Day O'Connor(1981-2006)
William Rehnquist(1975-2005)

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Page last updated: Feb 02, 2020