Newsweek has an interesting article about retired Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor. The gist of the piece is that even though Justice O’Connor is longer on the Court, she’s still extremely busy. Since her SCOTUS retirement, she has served on the Iraq Study Group, which published its report not too long ago; sat by designation on circuit courts (by our count, at least three — the Second, Eighth, and Ninth); worked on books; and delivered speeches, including vigorous defenses of “judicial independence.”
The most noteworthy material concerns the timing of Justice O’Connor’s departure from the Court:
O’Connor carefully weighed when to quit the bench. In the spring of 2005, with Chief Justice William Rehnquist publicly battling thyroid cancer, the two justices discussed timing. “We talked a little bit,” O’Connor recalls. “I was concerned about whether he had an intention to step down since his plans might have altered my own. It’s hard for the nation to grapple with two [retirements] at once,” she says. “He indicated he didn’t want to step down.” So she realized she had to go first.
And so she did, announcing her retirement on July 1, 2005. As it turned out, however, Chief Justice Rehnquist passed away about two months after SOC stepped down. So the nation did end up having to deal with two vacancies at the same time. (Then-Judge John Roberts was moved over to the Chief spot, after being nominated initially as an Associate Justice, and Judge Samuel Alito was subsequently appointed to replace Justice O’Connor.)
The article also reports unfortunate news concerning Justice O’Connor’s husband, John Jay O’Connor III:
After O’Connor was freed from her daily duties at the court—it took six months before Alito took her seat—John’s condition deteriorated. Last summer she reluctantly placed him in a care center near their home in Phoenix; she visits him often. “It’s such a miserable disease. It’s so sad. It’s so hard. I did the best I could,” she says. “He wants me there all the time.”
Justice O’Connor’s departure has left a void on the Court. And we’re not talking about making Justice Kennedy even more of an influential swing vote.
What we want to know is: Now that SOC is away from One First Street most of the time, who leads the morning aerobics classes at the Supreme Court gym — as Justice O’Connor used to do, on a daily basis before she retired? Although Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a cheerleader in her youth, she no longer seems like the aerobicizing type.
And don’t look to SOC’s replacement, Justice Samuel Alito. We adore Justice Alito as a jurist. But we don’t think we’re alone in not wanting to see him in spandex.
Justice: Bench Player [Newsweek via WSJ Law Blog]