Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Supreme Loss: A Largely Ineffective Supreme Court Without the Sandra Day O’Connor Swing

By Elise I. Butler
Elise I. Butler is a third-year student at Albany Law School. Prior to attending law school, she graduated from Hamilton College where she majored in Psychology and minored in Biology.
At Albany Law, Elise serves as Executive Editor for Notes and Comments on the Albany Law Review. She has been a Sponsler Fellow in Federal Civil Procedure, a teaching assistant in Criminal Law, and a Peer Writing Assistant. Elise competed in Albany Law’s Senior Prize Trials, where she finished as a semi-finalist.
In her final semester at Albany Law, Elise is currently interning for Judge Mae D’Agostino in the Northern District of New York.

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor is often referred to as the most influential woman in American history.  This is largely due to her fair, impartial, and reasoned votes as a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.

O’Connor put her politics aside and voted not with the Republicans or Democrats, but with the side that deserved to prevail under the Constitution and law.  In today’s political climate, O’Connor’s reasoned, non-partisan voting is sorely missed.  Many hyperpolarized decisions reaching the Court today can be predicted based on the political affiliation of each justice’s appointer, something that was impossible with O’Connor on the Court. 

This paper explores the influence that Sandra Day O’Connor’s reasoned judgment had on the Court and on the law, and why it is sorely missed on the Court today.  This paper begins with a discussion of O’Connor’s judicial philosophy and influence on the Court and the law.  Next, this paper explores the political climate of today’s executive and legislative branches and their influence on the increased polarization of the judicial branch.  This paper concludes with an analysis of two of O’Connor’s opposing opinions on abortion and contrasts her reasoning for both with the reasonings provided in both the majority and dissenting opinions in the Court’s recent case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization
To read the paper, open HERE.