President Bush has given a recess appointment to Judge Charles Pickering, bypassing the Senate liberals trying to prevent votes on his nominees. But the case of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, appointed by President Reagan, shows how some nominees turn out far different than was intended.
It was big news that O’Connor voted with the liberals on the court to uphold a campaign-finance reform bill that restricts first amendment rights. This was not expected when she was nominated by President Reagan, who was told that he would receive credit for appointing the first woman justice to the court. He was misled into thinking she was a conservative. But O’Connor has gone beyond liberal, recently declaring that the court will increasingly make its decisions in deference to international law and foreign opinion.
Commenting on the significance of the speech, Howard Phillips of the Conservative Caucus says O’Connor has violated her oath of office, swearing allegiance to the U.S. Constitution, and that she should be removed from office. Phillips’ blast at O’Connor has received less attention than the speech itself, which was covered only by Cox News service and a few publications that cover legal issues.
O’Connor declared, in an October 28 speech to the Southern Center for International Studies, that the U.S. Supreme Court had cited foreign laws and authorities in deciding two cases-one against the use of the death penalty for juveniles, and one finding homosexual rights in the U.S. Constitution. She said that American courts should pay even more attention to the ruling of foreign bodies. The three solid conservatives on the court, Justices Scalia, Thomas and Rehnquist, have strongly rejected the practice of citing foreign laws or rulings to make or interpret U.S. law.
This isn’t the first time that O’Connor has uttered such a view. On ABC’s “This Week” on July 6, she appeared with Clinton-appointed U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, who said their challenge is “whether our Constitution…fits into the governing documents of other nations…” Host George Stephanopoulos asked, “Is it conceivable that there will be a day when the Constitution is not the final word on the law of America?” O’Connor said that wasn’t the case, but the implication is that we may have a Constitution on paper but that it will be transformed by the authority or influence of foreign documents.
O’Connor was appearing at the 40th anniversary celebration of the Southern Center for International Studies, which honored her with something called the World Justice Award. To give you an idea of the political orientation of this group, consider that it sponsored an October 22nd journalism symposium on why the world hates America. According to a story on the group’s own website, Loren Jenkins of National Public Radio declared that many in the rest of the world “hate our policies…policies that are now semi-imperial, colonialist even at times…” But O’Connor seems to be saying that the U.S. ought to bend over backward to please other countries. That speech should have been big news.