September 20, 2007

What is the most famous line in an opinion by Justice O'Connor?

Just cross-checking something.

ADDED: According to Jeffrey Toobin (in "The Nine"), it's "The Roe framework, then, is clearly on a collision course with itself" (from Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health, 462 U.S. 416 (1983)).

53 comments:

Gustavus said...

"Liberty finds no refuge in a jurisprudence of doubt."

fjc said...

...a state of war is not a blank check for the President when it comes to the rights of the Nation’s citizens.

Beldar said...

Easy:

"We expect that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today."

Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306, 343 (2003). This ought to be known as the "not just living, breathing Constitution, but zombie Constitution that changes with the calendar" line.

Ron said...

It ain't over til its over?

George said...

If you can't convince them, confuse them.

sean said...

I'm with Beldar as to the most famous line. (My political views I will keep to myself.)

hdhouse said...

Dear Mr. Conehead -

Not to get too far off topic but your comment on the quotation begs the questions "what do you mean" and "what are you implying".

Are you suggesting that the great hope exhibited in the sentence shouldn't have been included? Does it not keep the door for further consideration "as times change"? Does it not recognize that our society changes over time and we do as a society make some fundamental changes in how we address our fellow citizens?

Or are you suggesting that Ms. O'Connor errs when writes anything other than "the framers wanted this; so be it".

I heard a physicist talk about the constitution in a public lecture (Feynman in fact). The sum of his observation was that like physics, the constitution has a few inviolate threads - something like a clothes line - on which all things hang. You can't change the threads but you can and should hang new things on them, discarding some, reworking some, and always examining what is hanging there with an eye to the past and an eye to the future.

But I digress. It is a great line and does her honor. Thanks for nominating it.

rcocean said...

"Eenie, Meenie, Minie, Moe….

Simon said...

Gustavas - if that opinion counts, I agree, but that opinion had three authors and Justice Kennedy wrote that line, not O'Connor.

Simon said...

I'm actually stumped. I have no idea what the most famous line would be (as opposed to the best line, the worst line, or some other criterion).

Gustavus said...

Simon,

I don't necessarily dispute you, but what's your source for saying that Kennedy authored that line? Lexis lists O'Connor as the first author. (And I always associated it with her. Although that's not very authoritative.)

rcocean said...

"Our task is to clarify the law -- not to muddy the waters, and not to exact overcompliance by intimidation. The States and the Federal Government are entitled to know before they act the standard to which they will be held, rather than be compelled to guess about the outcome of Supreme Court peek-a-boo.”

“What is a moderate interpretation of the text? Halfway between what it really means and what you'd like it to mean?”

Simon said...

Gustavas, Kennedy is widely "credited" (so to speak) with writing that section, and even if that wasn't so, I don't think it takes that much familiarity with their respective writing styles to conclude that if it's pompous, virtually meaningless, sweeping and grandiloquent, Kennedy wrote it. ;)

SMGalbraith said...

"Heads, I go with Stevens; tails, I go with Scalia."

"Damned, it landed on its edge again".

Okay, that was two.

Beldar said...

hdhouse (8:16am): Don't get me wrong. I hold Justice O'Connor in high regard, and I agree with the sentiment of the line I quoted. I don't hold Justice O'Connor's jurisprudence in high regard, though, because I think she voted on the SCOTUS pretty much like she voted in the Arizona state senate, which is to say, she valued practical expediency. To understand the significance of the line I quoted, you have to appreciate (as I know Prof. A does) that Michigan had no history of unconstitutional discrimination on the basis of race. Thus, Grutter was not a remedies case. One can make an argument for race-conscious remedies when there is a history of constitutional violation, but that was not Grutter. Thus, the only explanation of Justice O'Connor's quoted remark is that the Constitution meant one thing in 2003, when the case was decided, but would mean something entirely different 25 years later (with no constitutional amendments in the meantime).

The reason I nominate this as the most famous line in an O'Connor opinion is that it's the least constitutionally principled line in any Supreme Court opinion for the last couple or three decades.

Dave TN said...

"Loosen up, Sandy baby"
- John Riggins

Oops - I thought you asked for the most famous line said to Conner...

Hoosier Daddy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Simon said...

Beldar said...
"To understand the significance of the line I quoted, you have to appreciate (as I know Prof. A does) that Michigan had no history of unconstitutional discrimination on the basis of race. Thus, Grutter was not a remedies case. One can make an argument for race-conscious remedies when there is a history of constitutional violation, but that was not Grutter."

Also true of the Seattle School District plan at issue in the Parents Involved (i.e. Schools Cases) decided last term, and although the same can't be said for the Louisville school district in that case, that district had been certified as desegregated before the plan was adopted which makes it analytically indistinguishable from a district that had no history of discrimination insofar as the plan by definition can't be remedial without anything to remedy.

One of the little tidbits in Toobin's new book is the reason O'Connor picked "25 years from now"? Grutter was decided in 2003; Bakke, which O'Connor admired as a practical decision, was decided in 1978. You do the math. Neutral principles it ain't.

Ann Althouse said...

I'm asking the question because Toobin asserts that something is her most famous line, and I didn't think it was. So far none of you has quoted the line Toobin calls her most famous.

Chris said...

The zombie constitution? I thought that was my line--the half-living, half-dead Constitution.

Wurly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Simon said...

I guess I should have brought the book to the office, but that'd spoil the fun. ;) It depends on what crowd he's talking about - famous among the general public? I doubt any line O'Connor's written is famous qua a line written by Justice O'Connor amidst the general public. Among law professors and other people interested in law? Probably a line from Casey or JA Croson.

blake said...

"This corn rye is a little stale."


(Well, it's big on the deli circuit.)

mtrobertsattorney said...

The implication of Beldar's quote is that the constitution should be interpreted so as to "further" those "interest"(s) favored by a majority of the court.

MadisonMan said...

A moment of silence is not inherently religious.

IANAL so I did a web search on O'Connor quotes (the first hit was the althouse post asking the question!) -- I don't know if the above is in an opinion.

Fritz said...

Sandra Day you were a crazy rabbit.

On Monday: "It matters enormously to a successful democratic society like ours that we have three branches of government, each with some independence and some control over the other two. That's set out in the Constitution. "

By Friday: "Now you are seeing proposals in Congress to cut budgets of courts in an effort to in effect punish them for things the legislators don't like. There's a resolution pending to give grounds for impeachment if a judge cites a foreign judgment. You see a proposal for an inspector general for judges."

ht brainyquote.com

Ralph said...

From 1981: "Why is there a urinal in the Ladies Room?"

Whatever happened to John Riggins?

Simon said...

I'm certain this isn't the example Toobin uses, but maybe "The court today surveys the battle scene of federalism and sounds a retreat" (from Garcia)?

Simon said...

Fritz, I don't think those two statements are really in that much tension. The first says that the three branches are both independent and interdependent. The second criticizes Congress for leaning on the independence of the court because it doesn't like the court's rulings.

mtrobertsattorney said...

Feynman's description of the constitution as a clothes line with things hanging on it is brilliant. Just as light is sometimes a wave and sometimes a particle, so it is that sometimes the clothes line becomes something that is hanging and sometimes something that is hanging becomes the clothes line.

Mark said...

This is a case about federalism?

John Stodder said...

"It is difficult to discern a serious threat to religious liberty from a room of silent, thoughtful schoolchildren."

This is one of three quotes that About.com uses in its bio of O'Connor. The other two are clearly from speeches:

"The more education a woman has, the wider the gap between men's and women's earnings for the same work."

"The power I exert on the court depends on the power of my arguments, not on my gender."

Michael said...

Beldar said...

Easy:

"We expect that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today."


I agree with Beldar. Only 7,582 days left!

Skeptical said...

"At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life."

Simon, surely a co-authored opinion counts as being an opinion by Justice O'Connor!

Skeptical said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul Zrimsek said...

Beldar! The Constitution can smell your brains!

Simon said...

I cheated and looked. Whatever the most famous line is, Toobin's wrong, that isn't it.

Skeptical - I think the reference to a "line in an opinion by Justice O'Connor" connotes a line written by Justice O'Connor.

Michael said...

Like Skeptical, I instantly thought of the "sweet mystery of life" passage, but how do we know if O'Connor or Kennedy wrote it?

B said...

Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health, Inc.(1983):

The Roe framework, then, is clearly on a collision course with itself. As the medical risks of various abortion procedures decrease, the point at which the State may regulate for reasons of maternal health is moved further forward to actual childbirth. As medical science becomes better able to provide for the separate existence of the fetus, the point of viability is moved further back toward conception.

Nitpicker said...

Roe v. Wade is on a collision course with technology (or words to that effect). The idea being that as medical science advances, and ever-younger premature babies can be saved, the rationale for the trimester/viability schema disappears.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Was it something to do with Rocky Mountain oysters and her intended husband?

EnigmatiCore said...

I remember reading the line Beldar quoted when the reporting of that decision came down.

I thought at the time that 25 years was entirely too long of an estimate; that it would be much sooner than that.

Then I read stories like this and I realize that we might not even make that 25 years estimate.

How on earth can this not be a story getting national attention, nearly every day?

hdhouse said...

On general principle I would vote for the non-opinion quote:

"We are a nation of laws and not men or even women."

But I'll vote for:

"Liberty finds no refuge in a jurisprudence of doubt."

Gustavus said...

So, Prof. Althouse, what's Toobin's nomination for O'Connor's most famous line?

Luckyoldson said...

“Bill, I think John needs me. I think I need to go, but I don’t want to leave the Court with two vacancies.”

Peter Palladas said...

All the flowers that you planted, mama

In the back yard

All died when you went away

I know that living with you baby was sometimes hard

But I'm willing to give it another try

'Cause nothing compares ...

Nothing compares to you


That O'Connor?

Simon said...

LOS - it's funny, actually, because both Greenburg and Toobin recount the story of that meeting in their books, yet tell quite different versions. Since the events thereof could only be divulged by one of the two people present, and Rehnquist isn't giving interviews -- honestly, he's the laziest guy on the court these days: never does interviews, never writes opinions, doesn't even show up for arguments, he has his clerk sitting in all the time -- the only possible source is O'Connor. So either Greenburg's spinning, toobin's spinning, or O'Connor can't even make up her mind about factual recollections of events in her life.

Luckyoldson said...

smon,
Who knows?

I would assume Toobin was recording much of what he has so he's not litigated into the ground, and if he's lying about anything somebody would certainly raise hell or sue.

I've always loved Clarence's famous quote: "Gee, Anthony, I love your tie."

Simon said...

LOS - actually I'd think that Brother Clarence's most famous line in an opinion (for better or worse) is his observation in Hudson v. McMillian that "a use of force that causes only insignificant harm to a prisoner may be immoral, it may be tortious, it may be criminal, and it may even be remediable under other provisions of the Federal Constitution, but it is not 'cruel and unusual punishment.'"

ricpic said...

"...sometimes the clothesline becomes something that is hanging and sometimes something that is hanging becomes the clothesline."


No! I'm going to say this for the last time. A clothesline does not hang, a clothesine is hung, sometimes well hung, with clothes. Get it!

Luckyoldson said...

simon,
That's exactly the same thing many of his black brothers said over the years..."it is not 'cruel and unusual punishment."

I deserved it.

David Nieporent said...

Clarence Thomas is easy: "Something has gone seriously awry with this Court’s interpretation of the Constitution."

O'Connor doesn't really have famous lines, although I think Wurly is closest.

Trooper York said...

What is the most famous line in an opinion by O'Connor?
A woman should cleave into her husband. Right here in this house is where Edith's cleavage belongs