July 26, 2012

Sandra Day O'Connor says attacks on John Roberts "demonstrate only too well a lack of understanding that some of our citizens have about the role of the judicial branch."

She was testifying at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on civics education, which doesn't sound as though it was about airing grievances about her old colleagues on the Supreme Court, but Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy — the chairman of the committee — used the occasion to express his concern "about some of the rhetoric about the chief justice. He’s been called everything from a traitor to having betrayed President George W. Bush."

But watch the video at the link. O'Connor is almost robotic as she steps carefully through a bland transition back to her prepared text — watch her look down at her notes — which seems to the usual civics lesson about the framers and the Constitution:
“It’s unfortunate. Because I think comments like that demonstrate only too well a lack of understanding that some of our citizens have about the role of the judicial branch, and I think the framers of our federal Constitution did a great job in understanding themselves that the judicial branch needed to be able to make independent decisions and the legitimacy — the lawfulness — of actions at the state and federal level...."
But the news media got their sound bite: Unfortunate!

She was also prompted give the other side a sound bite:
Once Leahy was done, Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, the committee's senior Republican, wondered whether the real threat to judicial independence came from Obama's remarks in early April, after the court heard arguments in the health care case but nearly three months before it was decided.

"If there's a pending decision at the Supreme Court and the president was to express his views along those lines it would be surprising," O'Connor said. "I guess it could happen, but it's not what we expect and it's not ideal."
Not ideal! Take that!
Grassley also wanted to know what O'Connor thought about Obama's criticism during his 2010 State of the Union speech, with several justices in attendance, of the court's 5-4 decision in the Citizens United case that freed corporations and labor unions of most limits on political spending.

"I don't know if it threatens judicial independence. It's just not what a citizen expects to hear," she said. "It's unusual. It's not how that time is usually spent by presidents."
It's unusual... not how that time is usually spent....

I'm guessing Justice O'Connor thinks it's unfortunate that her time, when called upon to testify about civics education, was used by politicians to extract politically useful statements from her, but that is how the time of politicians is usually spent, and it is exactly what a citizen expects to hear.

Ironically, that's a civics lesson.

10 comments:

BarryD said...

Wow! She's as gutless in retirement as Roberts proved to be this year, on the bench.

edutcher said...

"I think the framers of our federal Constitution did a great job in understanding themselves that the judicial branch needed to be able to make independent decisions and the legitimacy — the lawfulness — of actions at the state and federal level"

Funny, I don't think the people who wrote the Constitution envisioned a junta of 9 old men (with a few women of a certain age) in black dresses superseding the will of the people and their elected representatives with their own personal agendas (agendae?) as an ad hoc ruling class.

MisterBuddwing said...

Do they still teach civics in school?

jacksonjay said...

Not ideal?? Does Sandy remember the words of the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman?

“I trust that he will be a chief justice for all of us and that he has a strong institutional sense of the proper role of the judicial branch,” Senator Patrick Leahy (D–VT), said in a floor statement aimed at Chief Justice John Roberts. “The conservative activism of recent years has not been good for the Court. Given the ideological challenge to the Affordable Care Act and the extensive, supportive precedent, it would be extraordinary for the Supreme Court not to defer to Congress in this matter that so clearly affects interstate commerce.”

Of course this statement was made in late May, about the same time that Roberts is suspected of switching his vote!

jeff said...

Wait. Leahy? Leaky Leahy is Chairman of a committee and is talking about his concern about what OTHER people are saying?

Ken said...

demonstrate only too well a lack of understanding that some of our citizens have about the role of the judicial branch.

Most likely it demonstrates the deep understanding of the constitution US citizens have. They understand that words have meaning, even when that meaning is inconvenient.

It also demonstrates the treason being committed by the judiciary, colluding with the legislative and executive branch, to overturn the basic meaning of the US constitution: limited government. The citizenry allows the government certain powers. However, O'Conner and others like her throughout government think that the government allows the citizenry certain powers.

In other words, the political class has inverted the basic revolutionary idea that all power rests with the people, that the people are not subjects to rulers with whom all power rests. Usurping power, then calling a tax doesn't change this in any way.

Joe Schmoe said...

Off-topic, sorta, but I just wanted to say thanks Ann for your reportage to go along with the video. At work I can get away with an open browser window that is mostly text, but I can't really do videos and definitely nothing with the sound on. I can't do headphones as I've got people coming and going into my office all day. I appreciate it. For what it's worth, I like new media video and stuff, but old texty-media is more compatible and less noticeable in the workplace.

Bruce said...

Joe Schmoe said: thanks Ann... old texty-media is more compatible and less noticeable

Seconded! One of the things I like about the Althouse site is that it can be read, and it's rare when an imbedded video must be watched to get the point and follow the discussion.

It's not just being able to read at work; even at home I'm unlikely to watch a video unless I'm alone in a room as it's disruptive to others nearby to have to hear it.

george said...

Why did no one ask O'Connor if our 25 years of retaliatory racism is over yet? Then they can ask her if we will need 25 years of racism the other way to make whole the victims she created with her previous ruling allowing racism to continue to flourish despite the law.

I assume she feels a good deal of sympathy for Roberts because she is confused and weak of character just like him and had to endure people pointing it out to her.

In short she has NOTHING to teach anyone about what the role of the judicial branch should be and a good portion of the public holds her in contempt for what she did when she was on the court.

Almost Ali said...

John Roberts simply reminded us that we're a nation of men, not laws.

Unsettling, but the reality nonetheless.