Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor talks about being the first woman to sit on the United States Supreme Court, and discusses the history and evolution of the highest court in the land. Out of Order: Stories from the History of the Supreme Court traces the transformation of the Supreme Court from its uncertain beginnings into the institution that thrives and endures today. Justice O’Connor presents portraits of Justices in history, including Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., Thurgood Marshall, William O. Douglas, and John Roberts, and gives a glimpse behind the scenes in the court.


Sandra Day O’Connor

Comments [29]

gene from nyc

OK, just one more update:

The very next day, Gross interviewed Supreme Court maven Jeffrey Toobin, who has done more work on the modern court, and knows more about each individual, than anyone I can think of.

Gross had obviously been disturbed by O'Connor's recalcitrance, and actually brought up her question to O'Connor where she cited Toobin, who had said O'Connor regretted her tie-breaking decision in Bush v. Gore.

O'Connor had evaded, of course, and said, "I don't know where he got that."

Toobin confirmed and elaborated, but didn't cite anything concrete. He emphasized that many things of the subsequent Bush administration were anathema to everything O'Connor stood for--Iraq, HSA, etc.

Toobin summed up:

"So, does she regret that decision? YOU BET."

It's a little strange because, as a legal scholar, Toobin's rationale has zilch to do with the legal issues on which O'Connor (presumably) based her decision.

Mar. 07 2013 12:55 PM
gene from nyc

Just an update, for those following such things:

O'Connor was _marginally_ more responsive on The Daily Show, as John Stewart worked his wonderfully nebbishy wiles with her.

AND he even "got her out on time." Was she really looking at her watch as the interview concluded??

A commenter on the video's page asked if it was a condition of the interview that Stewart not mention Bush v. Gore.

Mar. 06 2013 01:08 PM
Dan from Rahway

You would think an individual that is given so much power would sound more insightful and personable (or at the very least, smart)!!! Ugh!!

Mar. 06 2013 10:32 AM
Patrick Keville from san francisco

this woman is so crabby and defensive

Mar. 06 2013 07:37 AM
Dean from DC Metro

Poor Terry. No matter how she tried to make the interview work, Justice O'Connor worked just as hard at making it not work.

I suspect this will go down as the second worst interview in Terry's mind.

Mar. 06 2013 06:23 AM
Tim from San Francisco

She sure doesn't make me proud to be an American. What a cold-hearted person.

Mar. 05 2013 04:26 PM

I guess her publisher didn't tell her that doing interviews is part of getting her book published!!!

Mar. 05 2013 03:13 PM
gene from nyc

I hate to pile on, but it really is obnoxious. One answer to a Terry Gross question: "I can't answer that. That's something YOU will have to do."

On gun legislation:

"If I've written on the subject, you'll find it. If not, let it go."

On Bush v. Gore:

"I don't want to discuss things that I've done."

Follow WNYC's link above for reviews of her book from Amazon's readers. Some quotes:

--a history that pretty much anybody with Wikipedia could have written

Mar. 05 2013 02:55 PM
Airren from B'ham, AL

Oh no, just heard she's gonna be Jon's guest on the Daily Show tonight. Guess I get to go to sleep early.

Mar. 05 2013 02:41 PM
Gene from NYC

Terry Gross (shocked at getting such a minimalist answer): Can you . . . uh . . . elaborate on that?

O'Connoer: No.


Gross (On a different question): Can you elaborate on that?

O'Connoer: No. I don't think I'll try.

Mar. 05 2013 02:35 PM
Airren from B'ham, AL

Dang, I just listened to the Terry Gross interview too. She really does refuse to be even a bit personable or anectdotal in her answers. If that's any indication of what her book is like, count me out. She comes across as a boor.

Mar. 05 2013 02:31 PM
Gene from nyc

Listening to Terry Gross interview her now. Same incredibly frustrating, fruitless interview.

Mar. 05 2013 02:21 PM
Melissa Meyer

Dear Leonard,
I wish you could of asked her how she feels about giving the country George Bush ( and everything that came with him) with her deciding vote on Gore vs Bush?
Any regrets,Sandra?
I hope nobody buys her book.

Mar. 05 2013 01:59 PM
Peter Talbot from Harrison, New Jersey

Praise is certainly due to Justice O'Connor for her filial piety in moving back to Arizona. Her contribution to the bench was indisputable. Praise also to Leonard for letting the retired Justice continue to be both juridical and reserved in responding to some good questions. That said, I learned nothing about the Court, its philosophical underpinnings, its place in the balance of powers or anything remarkable about any cases or procedures it applies from this interview. If the purpose of this interview was to hawk her book, she killed it by failing to understand the needs of the auditors and potential readers to be engaged by personality on the microphone. Her palpable relief in closing off the interview promptly at 12:30 wasn't just disappointing: it was arrogant. No sale.

Mar. 05 2013 01:37 PM
Ken from UWS

Presidents have wide latitude in selecting justices. This interview proved it.

Mar. 05 2013 01:21 PM
Michael Antonoff from Manhattan

This is the new benchmark for being circumspect. When the questions are longer than the answers, you know the interview subject would rather be elsewhere.

Mar. 05 2013 01:19 PM
Charles from Teaneck

Leonard, You asked her a very good question about the framers and the anti-democratic nature of establishing a body with lifetime tenure. The former justice won't give a straight answer on such a question. I'm glad that she retired! I'm really looking forward to Scalia's retirement.

Mar. 05 2013 12:41 PM
Jay from NJ

Well, that was a soft interview... Lame.

Mar. 05 2013 12:33 PM
John W from NJ

Does anyone else think this is a terrible interview? Leonard is working hard but if she gives another one word answer or just agrees with what Leonard says...I'd cut the interview off.

Mar. 05 2013 12:29 PM
gene from NYC

Wow. Poor Lenny. This is one of the most surprisingly reticent interviewees he's ever had. It's shocking that this disingenuous, issue-avoiding, "everything's just fine, just as it's always meant to be" person was ever deciding our most important issues.

Mar. 05 2013 12:28 PM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

Can you ask Justice O'Connor how much common sense enters into decisions?

Mar. 05 2013 12:23 PM
Jay from NJ

Leonard, please ask about the Court choosing the president in the Bush/Gore election.. what gave them the right?

Mar. 05 2013 12:21 PM
Pia110 from Brooklyn

I would love hear her take on activist judges/justices.

Mar. 05 2013 12:21 PM
Roscoe from New Windsor, NY

I applaud your iCivics initiative, Justice O'Connor. Do you help explain the legislative effect of court decisions, such that the claim 'courts can make policy' has some purchase?

Mar. 05 2013 12:20 PM
Ken from UWS

How does Justice O'Connor feel about voting to make George W. Bush president?

Mar. 05 2013 12:16 PM
D from NYC

I watched SDO on a special documentary on PBS for women's history month. She couldn't find a job after graduating Law School, women weren't being hired. Shocking to think discrimination was so rampant.

Mar. 05 2013 12:04 PM
Peter Talbot from Harrison, New Jersey

Rulings from the court intended to dismantle Reconstruction enshrined corporations as persons before the law: a construction completely foreign, nay horrifying to the founders without any doubt. All the initial rulings of the court on civil rights were designed to protect railroads and pro-white autocrats from organizations of freed slaves created to better the health and economic wellbeing of their fledgling communities. This became an oft-misquoted sound bite in the recent elections.

I would like to hear Justice O'Connor's opinion of this anti-constitutional activist position of the court held without exception and without fail since the Vanderbilt accurately summed up America's actual guiding principle: "What do I care about the law? Ain't I got the power?"

Mar. 05 2013 11:13 AM
Ed from Larchmont

Looking back, I wonder if Justice O'Connor has any second thoughts about Carhart. I imagine the court didn't feel it could do anything other than what it did.

Mar. 05 2013 06:00 AM
james hyatt from Princeton NJ

I'd love to hear Justice O'Connor discuss how court members fantasize about and anticipate getting cases on issues about which they have strong feelings. I can just imagine a member thinking to him/herself "I can't wait to get a good case to reverse xyz."

Also, does she think amicus briefs have any impact on the court -- such as the briefs recently filed on the gay marriage cases?


Jim Hyatt

Mar. 04 2013 04:53 PM

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