Sandra Day O'Connor has announced her retirement from the bench of the Supreme Court. I was afraid this was going to happen and it is very troubling news for liberals and moderates alike.
Previously, there was great talk about an imminent retirement announcement for Justice Renquist. Renquist stepping down and Bush being able to replace him would have done little to change the makeup of the court. Renquist is a staunch conservative who almost always voted in a conservative manner. Bush would undoubtedly nominate another conservative and the balance on the court would remain the same.
O'Connor's departure has many more implications. O'Connor was a staunch moderate and pragmatists. She was often the swing vote on the bench that would be the deciding factor between the liberal and conservative camps. Bush is now able to nominate a justice for her seat, and as we have seen in the past, Bush is adamant about naming only strict conservative justices.
With a staunch conservative sitting in O'Connor's seat, the balance of power would shift wholly change to the conservative camp. With partisanship growing more and more debilitating in the Congress, a moderate court is more important than ever.
O'Connor Steps Down from U.S. Supreme Court
July 1, 2005 — Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court, is resigning after nearly 24 years as an associate justice.
In a letter to President Bush, O'Connor, 75, said her resignation would take effect upon the confirmation of her successor.
"It has been a great privilege, indeed, to have served as a member of the court for 24 terms," she wrote. "I will leave it with enormous respect for the integrity of the court and its role under our constitutional structure."
In another statement, O'Connor said she looks forward to spending more time with her husband, who has Alzheimer's disease.
O'Connor's resignation could shift the vote on the court on key issues including abortion, affirmative action and the death penalty for the mentally retarded, analysts said, because O'Connor has cast deciding votes in recent cases on those and other issues.
Bush said this morning that he would have a nomination in place in time for a Senate vote and confirmation before the next Supreme Court term in the fall.
"America is proud of Justice O'Connor's destinguished service, and I'm proud to know her," Bush added.
Considered a conservative at the time of her nomination by President Reagan in July 1981, O'Connor's subtle shift to the center enhanced her influence on the court and solidified her position as one of the most powerful women of her time.
A Supreme Court justice since Sept. 25, 1981, O'Connor's influence has been felt on issues ranging from abortion and affirmative action, to sexual harassment and terrorism.
"She had a very aggressive view of the role of the courts as instruments of social justice and national policy," said Jeffrey Rosen of the George Washington University Law School. "She saw the court in general, and herself in particular, as the appropriate body to decide all these contested questions of national policy."
Update: Maxed Out Moma doesn't think that there will be much change, and Objective justice looks at the current balance on the court.