Justice O'Connor foresees cutbacks in personal liberties.
September 30, 2001 8:19 AM   Subscribe

Justice O'Connor foresees cutbacks in personal liberties. Sandra Day O'Connor, during remarks given at the groundbreaking ceremonies for a Law School Building at NYU, cautions Americans that we may face restrictions in our personal freedoms. No real specifics in the remarks, but intriguing in that she would be among those having the final say as to the constitutionality of any laws that arise out of the "War on Terrorism". She poses some interesting questions in her remarks. And she is considered to be one of the moderate Justices.
posted by MAYORBOB (13 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Do the restrictions proposed by Sandra Day O’Connor include those of Senator Kay O’Connor [see next article on women staying home]? And why do these O’Connor women have rhyming names? :^p
posted by Davezilla at 9:44 AM on September 30, 2001

> Justice O'Connor foresees cutbacks in personal liberties.

You mean like another coup? She didn't much care for freedom, liberty and constitutionality back in December -- why the sudden change of heart?
posted by RavinDave at 9:53 AM on September 30, 2001

And she is considered to be one of the moderate Justices.
Just imagine what mr. Rehnquist, Scalia and Thomas are going to do, then
posted by matteo at 10:48 AM on September 30, 2001

Has the U.S. ever had a worse set of Supreme Court justices? It seems they have the United States confused with some banana republic. You'd think they'd have at least READ the Constitution they're sworn to uphold.
posted by rushmc at 10:57 AM on September 30, 2001

Jeesh, I've already accepted that it's too late to ask the Executive or Legislative branches of our gov't for any restraint, but I'd been kidding myself that at least the Judiciary still knew its job is to uphold constitutionality, not to help enforce unconstitutional policies...
posted by Zurishaddai at 11:04 AM on September 30, 2001

Has the U.S. ever had a worse set of Supreme Court justices?

Yes, we have. It's just that since the group we had before Rhenquist ascended to Chief Justice was one of the best we've had, that it's difficult to remember courts like the one that decided the Dred Scott case.

And she is considered to be one of the moderate Justices

Not so much of a moderate, as one who has made her niche on the Court as a swing vote - letting the others voice their opinions to either extreme, and then wielding power by casting the deciding vote.

It's surprising that any member of the Supreme Court voiced any opinion on the subject of civil liberties in the wake of September's attacks. There is a real pressure upon the Justices to not speak on issues that face the public. The role of the Court in the Dred Scott decision above has been described by many to help "hasten" the conflict between the north and south in the Civil war, but that was after a decision. To make a statement like hers, even though not a strong statement, was probably pretty irresponsible.
posted by bragadocchio at 11:50 AM on September 30, 2001

Am I way off here or isn't it inappropriate for a justice (of the supreme court, no less) to opine in this way publically? Not privately, of course, but in an obvious public role outside the bench. I see this as opinion even if someone can argue it's analysis. In either case, given her position, she shouldn't be doing it with such broad public exposure. It's as if she's informally giving indication of how things are going to be decided.

Is she giving notice here to the ACLU et al?
posted by mmarcos at 1:21 PM on September 30, 2001

mmarcos: Yes, it's at least not in keeping with past Supreme Court mores. Anyone who has heard the justice go off about the need to balance community rights with individual rights, however, can scarcely be surprised. When I heard her speak last, at Univ. of Alabama in the fall of1999, this was her main theme, although she talked about the balance obliquely, in the midst of talking about international law. Or rather, she talked about great individual rights cases of the U.S. in the 20th Century, then said the 20st would be the century of community rights, then proceeded to talk about int'l law. Which she talks about in the linked article, curiously enough.

Rhenquist, by the way, has written an entire book about civil liberties in wartime. People are suddenly very interested in it.
posted by raysmj at 2:21 PM on September 30, 2001

I'm not certain that I could read a full-length book by William Rhenquist. His opinions are painful enough - especially the ones that you find yourself agreeing with right up to the conclusion, where you're forced to scatch your head and wonder where he came up with the decision that he's made. But you're right, I've been seeing a number of quotes from his book.

Do you think that in light of O'Connor's statements and Rhenquist's book, that they would have to consider disqualifying themselves from consideration of any issues that arise in relation to the curtailment of civil rights springing out of September 11th's events? O'Connor's statements weren't very specific, and Rhenquist's book also isn't specific commentary upon recent events. But they may color debate upon passage of laws to come.
posted by bragadocchio at 3:26 PM on September 30, 2001

brag: There's only a few people who can even suggest that a Supreme Court justice recuse him or herself (or himself and . . . oh, I'm all confused here) from a case and have much of a chance of being heard. Those are fellow justices. Otherwise, it's up to them.

Meanwhile, Rhenquist says he wrote the book because these issues need to be discussed in peacetime, not in war. But my own feeling (having skimmed the book, while carefully reading parts of it, as well as a speech or two made in support of the work) is that he's more put off by harassment of the press and individuals (such as dissenting clergy during the Civil War) during wartime than of messing with habeas corpus and the more general rights of the accused. The latter should not come as a shock.
posted by raysmj at 3:47 PM on September 30, 2001

Oh, and excuse me, it's Rehnquist. Rhenquist looks better, though. He should consider a name change.
posted by raysmj at 4:00 PM on September 30, 2001

Woodward and Armstrong's book The Brethren made a few good points about the inner workings of the Court. The Supreme Court is pretty much a self policing community.

Having worked at a courthouse for a few years, I've seen a couple of recusals, and the overwhelming majority those were brought up by the judges themselves. These were things like the victim being a neighbor, or that the judge was a prosecutor or defense attorney in a prior conviction of the defendant. But I have seen a lot of pro se motions from defendants who would like their judge to disqualify himself or herself. I don't know if I would like to hear the public voicing the same type of sentiments.

Rehnquist - thanks! It has been a while since I've had to dig through a Supreme Court opinion.
posted by bragadocchio at 4:16 PM on September 30, 2001

I think Scalia's positions on war-time liberties will surprise people who aren't familiar with his voting patterns. With any luck, Thomas will follow suit. The more I study Scalia's opinions the more impressed I am with him. And I am far from being some Big-Government right-winger. Anyonw who wants to discuss that further, shoot me an email.

The "moderates": Kennedy, O'Connor, Souter are far scarier to me, because they admit to no controlling principles. They just follow their hubristic "infinite wisdom" in each case. They commonly find some excuse to turn a blind eye to troublesome policies.

The coalitions I worry about are Rehnquist-Thomas+moderates taking away civil liberties and Breyer-Stevers-Ginsberg+moderates taking away economic liberites.
posted by marknau at 4:31 PM on September 30, 2001

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