Sandra Day O’Connor – What It All Means

By July 1, 2005General

By now, everyone knows of the planned retirement of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. What’s incredible is how the media spin begins, how the view from the left becomes dogma. Watching the coverage today, the word is that we’re losing a great moderate who will no doubt be replaced by — gasp — a conservative!

First of all, Justice O’Connor was a Conservative. She was appointed by Ronald Reagan, for God’s sake, and was a pretty reliable conservative voice. You’ll also hear a lot about 5-4 decisions. Problem is, there ain’t that many of them. Figure about 80 cases a year times the number of years O’Connor was on the Court (24). OK, so that comes out to about 2000 cases. How many of those are 5-4 decisions? About 10%. In many of those, O’Connor was part of the 5, but they were conservative outcomes. To hear the media tell it, they’re all 5-4 decisions and O’Connor is on the 5 side, holding back the evil conservative tide. Truth is pretty expendable, as you’ll see.

Finally, you’ll hear a lot of chat about abortion and other social issues. It’s fair to ask, “How much time does a Supreme Court Justice spend on abortion (and similar) cases?” Answer again: not much. For too long we’ve allowed judges to be viewed and evaluated through a narrow prism of social issues. In fact, over 80% of a federal judge’s civil caseload is consumed with issues we care about: contracts, torts and employment litigation. We want justices who make decisions based on what a contract says, not on what they think it should say, and based on what the law says, not on what they think it should say.

Business has a lot riding on this third branch of government. They can undo all the good we’ve accomplished in the legislative branch. We need to pay attention. Here’s just a sampling of upcoming cases affecting manufacturers.

We congratulate Justice O’Connor on a great — and Conservative — career, and hope the President nominates somebody who interprets the law, and is not intent on making law from the bench. We look forward to being a part of that process, because our stake is quite large.

Here’s a copy of our press release today, hailing O’Connor’s service and looking ahead to the anticipated nominee.