The fundamental goal of the next Supreme Court justice should be to create a record that would not inspire Sen. Chuck Schumer to say, as he did of Justice O'Connor last week: "We hope the president chooses someone thoughtful, mainstream, pragmatic – someone just like Sandra Day O'Connor." That's our litmus test: We will accept only judicial nominees violently opposed by Chuck Schumer.
Showing what a tough job it is to be president, when Bush announced O'Connor's resignation, he called her "a discerning and conscientious judge and a public servant of complete integrity." I assume he was reading from the script originally drafted for Justice Rehnquist's anticipated resignation, but still, he said it.
Cleverly, Bush also made a big point of noting that Reagan appointed O'Connor, reminding people that whatever mistakes Bush may have made, at least he didn't appoint O'Connor.
It's hard to say which of O'Connor's decisions was the worst. It's like asking people to name their favorite Beatle or favorite (unaborted) child.
Of course, it was often hard to say what her decision was, period. In lieu of clear rules, or what we used to call "law," O'Connor preferred conjuring up five-part balancing tests that settled nothing. That woman could never make up her mind!
In a quarter-century on the highest court in the land, O'Connor will have left no discernible mark on the law, other than littering the U.S. Reports with a lot of long-winded versions of the legal proposition: "It depends."
Some say her worst opinion was Grutter v. Bollinger, which introduced a constitutional rule with a "DO NOT USE AFTER XXXX DATE." After delivering a four-part test for when universities are allowed to discriminate on the basis of race (a culturally biased test if ever there was one), O'Connor incomprehensibly added: "The Court expects that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today."
So now constitutional rules come with expiration dates, bringing to mind the image of O'Connor proffering one of her written opinions to Justice Scalia and asking, "Does this smell bad to you?" Strangely enough, she failed to specify which month and day in the year 2028 that affirmative action would no longer be justifiable under the Constitution.
Others say her worst decisions came in the area of religion. In determining the constitutionality of religious displays on public property and government aid to religion, Justice O'Connor evidently decided she preferred her own words, "entanglement" and "endorsement," to the Constitution's word "establishment."
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