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U.S. Supreme Court

Justice O’Connor Defends Her Post-Retirement Work

Posted Nov 7, 2011 10:45 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor hasn’t slowed down in retirement, and some of her work is provoking controversy.

O’Connor has participated in more than 140 cases before federal appeals courts since she retired from the Supreme Court in 2005, even as she backs changes in states that elect judges and campaigns for increased civics education in schools, the Washington Post reports. Both efforts stem from O’Connor’s concern that judicial independence is being threatened by a failure to understand judges’ role and by judicial elections that rely on campaign contributions.

It’s the second effort that has provoked controversy. One of the critics is Laurence Silberman, a senior judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the Post says. In a speech to the Federalist Society, he said O’Connor’s activism violates judicial canons barring political activity.

O’Connor disagrees. “My understanding of the canons of judicial ethics is that it’s expressly allowed for judges to take positions on things affecting the operations of the courts,” she told the newspaper. “Nothing affects them more than how judges are chosen. So I read that as being totally allowed—totally.”

Related article

ABAJournal.com: "O’Connor: Want a Qualified, Impartial Judiciary? Don’t Use Contested Elections"


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