When a Supreme Court Justice is worried about our government maybe we should pay attention?
NPR's Nina Totenberg was present at a talk that resigned Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor gave at Georgetown University in March 2006. Totenberg aired a story about the talk that has otherwise gotten no real media attention. Arizona's own O'Connor, speaking with passion and authority, warned about the "beginnings of dictatorship" in America. The first woman to serve on the High Court wouldn't allow her actual words to be broadcast which is chilling considering what she had to say. The Reagan appointee, a moderate and an American icon, shocked her audience with an astonishing wake up call which the media has all but ignored.
O'Connor all but named names in thinly veiled attacks on former House majority leader Tom DeLay and Texas Sen. John Cornyn. She ended her talk with a stunning warning. Pointing to the experiences of developing countries and formerly Communist countries, where interference with an independent judiciary has allowed dictatorship to flourish, O’Connor said we must be ever vigilant against those who would strong-arm the judiciary into adopting their preferred policies. It takes a lot of degeneration before a country falls into dictatorship she said, but we should avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings.
O'Connor told her Georgetown audience that judges can make presidents, Congress and governors "really really mad," and that if judges don't make people angry, they aren't doing their job. But she said judicial effectiveness is "premised on the notion that we won't be subject to retaliation for our judicial acts." While hailing the American system of rights and privileges, she noted that these don't protect the judiciary, that "people do."
Then, she took aim at former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. She quoted his attacks on the courts at a meeting of the conservative Christian group 'Justice Sunday' last year, when DeLay took out after the courts for its rulings on abortion, prayer, and the Terry Schiavo case. DeLay was incensed that the federal courts had applied Congress' one-time-only statute about Schiavo as it was written, not, said O'Connor, as the Congressman wished it were written. The response to this 'f'lagrant display of judicial restraint' by the Supreme Court? The congressman blasted the courts, said O'Conner, her voice dripping with sarcasm.
It gets worse, she said, noting that DEATH THREATS against judges are increasing. It doesn’t help, she said, when a high-profile senator suggests there may be a connection between violence against judges and decisions that the senator disagrees with. It was Texas Sen. John Cornyn who made that statement after a Georgia judge was murdered in court and the family of a federal judge in Illinois murdered in the judge's home.
O’Connor observed that there have been lots of suggestions lately for "judicial reforms" like recommendations for the massive impeachment of judges, stripping the courts of jurisdictions and cutting judicial budgets to punish offending judges. Any of these might be debatable, she said, as long as they are NOT retaliation for decision that political leaders disagree with. "I am against judicial reforms driven by nakedly partisan reasoning" O'Connor said.
(O'Connor resigned from the bench to care for her gravely ill husband.)
Link to source @ www.attywood.com and www.NPR.org