Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'Sandra Day O’Connor' Category

Justice O’Connor Profiled on Birthday as Inspirational Figure

FORMER SUPREME COURT JUSTICE O'CONNORWhen retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor celebrated her 84th birthday this week, she was the subject of a tribute in a National Law Review article.

The article is headlined, “A Woman’s Work: Blazing the Trail – Sandra Day O’Connor.” It discusses her pioneering rise to become the first woman to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court and the obstacles she overcame, and it describes Justice O’Connor as an inspirational figure.

Justice O’Connor is the First Honorary Chair of Justice at Stake.

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Wednesday Gavel Grab Briefs

In these other dispatches about fair and impartial courts:

  • iCivics, the nonprofit civics education organization run by Justice at Stake Honorary Chair Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, will convene a national Teachers Council in Washington, DC, in the summer of 2014,  according to Tribune Interactive. The Tribune report notes that an Alabama middle school teacher is among those selected for the Council.
  •  WDDE reports that Delaware’s Judicial Nomination Commission has officially submitted four candidates to Gov. Jack Markell to consider for Delaware’s next Supreme Court Chief Justice. The four candidates are Delaware Supreme Court Justice Carolyn Berger, Superior Court Judge Jan Jurden, Court of Chancery Chancellor Leo Strine Jr. and Superior Court President Judge James T. Vaughn Jr. One of these candidates will replace Myron Steele, who stepped down from the position last month. Gov. Markell is expected to make his nomination and submit it to the senate in January when the General Assembly returns to work.
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At Reform Group Event, O’Connor Touts Merit Selection

At a 25th anniversary celebration for Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor urged a shift away from partisan judicial elections in the state.

“Judicial independence means that judges are free to decide cases on the basis of law and facts, rather than on the basis of campaign contributions,” Justice O’Connor said, according to a Law360 article. “If it’s not present, our confidence in the judiciary crumbles.”

“Moving away from partisan election of judges is tremendously important,” Justice O’Connor added in the keynote address. She described the success of Arizona, where she once served as a legislator and judge, in adopting a merit-based judicial selection system. “I wish all of you every success in your efforts to protect the integrity of your courts,” she said.

PMC, a Justice at Stake partner organization, has been pushing for Pennsylvania to end judicial elections (see Gavel Grab about recently introduced, bipartisan legislation) and adopt a merit selection system. Justice O’Connor recently joined Justice at Stake as its first honorary chair. Read more

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Justice O’Connor’s Roadmap for Keeping Special Interest Money out of Judicial Elections

While only a few judges are up for a vote in today’s elections, the evidence continues to mount that money in judicial elections is a growing problem.

According to the Constitution Center blog, it is a grave, mounting and bipartisan problem, as retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor explained in her campaign for the O’Connor Judicial Selection Plan. 

Justice O’Connor is the honorary chair of Justice at Stake, and her plan calls for merit selection and retention votes –measures that help insulate judges from special interest money that has poured into elections.  The New Politics of Judicial Elections 2011-2012 report coauthored by Justice at Stake, the Brennan Center for Justice and the National Institute on Money in State Politics, highlights this problem.

“The flood of money in politics is undermining the state judiciary’s fairness, impartiality, and independence and its reputation for making decisions that reflect those essential qualities,” reported the Constitution Center.

Read more

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Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor Presides Over Same-Sex Marriage

According to a Reuters news article, retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor presided over a same-sex marriage at the court building.  This momentous occasion comes just four months after the Supreme Court’s two historic rulings on the issue of gay marriage.

Justice O’Connor was not the first judge to preside over a same-sex marriage at the courthouse. Current Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg oversaw the nuptials of a gay couple from New York, Ralph Lee Pellecchio and James Carter Wernz.

This past June the Supreme Court struck down DOMA and a federal law that prevented gay couples from seeking benefits provided to married couples. This has paved the way for multiple states to allow gay marriage. It is currently legal in Washington, D.C., and 14 other U.S. States.

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O’Connor Laments ‘Problems Raised by Citizens United’

Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor discussed  in remarks on Wednesday her deep concerns over the challenges caused by Citizens United, the court’s blockbuster campaign finance ruling in 2010.

“Citizens United produced a decision that, over the years, is going to cause lots of issues for the public to resolve,’’ she told an audience at Roger Williams University School of Law in Rhode Island, according to the Associated Press.

‘‘I think it may have caused more problems than answers given,’’ she said. ‘‘I don’t know what we’re going to do with the problems raised by Citizens United.’’ Justice O’Connor retired well before the court’s 2010 ruling, which struck down key restrictions and allowed unlimited independent spending by unions and corporations to influence the election of federal candidates.

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Justice Ginsburg Pens Personal Tribute to Fellow Justice O’Connor

On the 32nd anniversary of now-retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s taking the oath of office for the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Ruth Ginsburg has written a personal tribute to her trailblazing colleague. It also addresses diversity on the bench, without using that phrase.

In Politico, Justice Ginsburg salutes the ways in which Justice O’Connor has opened the doors for — and inspired — others, her direct and respectful manner on the court, and the ways in which Justice O’Connor “has done more to promote collegiality among the court’s members, and with our counterparts abroad, than any other justice.”

The piece was written for a Politico series called “Women Rule.” In 1981, Justice O’Connor became the first woman in history to sit on the Supreme Court.  Justice Ginsburg spotlights the following remark by Justice O’Connor from 1990 about women moving into seats of power:

“For both men and women the first step in getting power is to become visible to others, and then to put on an impressive show. … As women achieve power, the barriers will fall. As society sees what women can do, as women see what women can do, there will be more women out there doing things, and we’ll all be better off for it.”

Remarking on her time on the court with Justice O’Connor, Justice Ginsburg notes, “In the 12½ years we served together, court watchers have seen that women speak in different voices, and hold different views, just as men do.” Read more

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Editorial Applauds O’Connor’s Warnings About Judicial Elections

Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s warning before a conference of state legislators recently, about the detrimental effect of special interest money and politics on judicial elections, was applauded by a Georgia newspaper editorial.

At the conference in Georgia, Justice O’Connor mentioned during a talk about civic literacy (see Gavel Grab,) “Judicial elections powered by money and special interests create the impression, rightly and wrongly, that judges are accountable to money and to special interests, not the law.”

The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer editorial observed,  ”She did not, you no doubt noticed, say rightly or wrongly. The unarguable implication is that civic literacy is not just about understanding government processes, but about monitoring and affecting and improving them.”

The editorial added, “She’s right, of course. The widespread perception — corroborated all too often by irrefutable evidence — that government is controlled by the highest bidders is corrosive enough to public confidence without citizens believing that the very arbiters of the law are likewise for sale.” Read more

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‘Judges Should Avoid Politics,’ Editorial Declares, Citing O’Connor

Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s recent address to the Philadelphia Bar Association, and her urging reform of Pennsylvania’s judicial election system (see Gavel Grab) still is reverberating on the state’s editorial pages.

The Philadelphia Inquirer published an editorial headlined, “Judges should avoid politics.” It applauded Justice O’Connor’s warning of harmful consequences flowing from big-spending judicial elections and her support for a switch in Pennsylvania to a merit-based judicial selection system:

“O’Connor warned that, ‘It’s a serious problem that people in this country think of judges as politicians in robes.’ It’s time for Pennsylvania to correct that.”

Justice O’Connor, who has crusaded nationwide in the cause of protecting fair and impartial courts, recently joined Justice at Stake as its First Honorary Chair.

The editorial also quoted Lynn Marks, executive director of Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, as saying, “Vocal support from national figures like her really highlights the need for change” in the commonwealth. PMC is a JAS partner organization.

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Echoing O’Connor, Editorial Urges Judicial Selection Reform in PA

A good way to battle a popular perception that judges “are just politicians in robes” would be for Pennsylvania legislators to switch from judicial elections to a merit-based selection system, a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial says in echoing retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

Addressing the Philadelphia Bar Association recently, Justice O’Connor called it a “serious problem that people in this country think of judges as politicians in robes” (see Gavel Grab). The editorial concurs:

That is precisely the problem with electing judges. The people who support them with money are often the lawyers, special interest groups or others who may appear before them in court. Politicians and some of their supporters don’t think there is anything wrong with this cozy situation so fraught with potential conflicts of interest.

“Yet Pennsylvanians happy with the status quo have no excuse — not with a prime example of politician-judges recently thrust upon them. The public corruption charges that led to Joan Orie Melvin’s downfall from the state Supreme Court had to do with her use of court resources for political campaigning. The disgraced justice was the epitome of the robed politician.” Read more

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