Friday, July 01, 2005

"Supreme Court" Justice Sandra Day O'Connor resigns

Supreme Court Justice O'Connor retiring

O’Connor’s legacyJuly 1: Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s reputation as a “swing voter” on controversial issues raises the stakes over the nomination of her replacement. NBC’s Pete Williams reports on that and other facets of her decision to retire.

Updated: 11:22 a.m. ET July 1, 2005
WASHINGTON - Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court and a key swing vote on issues such as abortion and the death penalty, said Friday that she is retiring after 24 years on the bench.
O’Connor, 75, said she will leave before the start of the court’s next term in October, or when the Senate confirms her successor.
President Bush praised O'Connor's contributions saying that "our nation is deeply grateful." In brief comments at the White House, he did not announce a nominee for the seat but said he hoped to do so in "a timely manner."

It’s been 11 years since the last opening on the court, one of the longest uninterrupted stretches in history. O’Connor’s decision gives Bush his first opportunity to appoint a justice.
“This is to inform you of my decision to retire from my position as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, effective upon the nomination and confirmation of my successor. It has been a great privilege indeed to have served as a member of the court for 24 terms. I will leave it with enormous respect for the integrity of the court and its role under our constitutional structure.”
The White House has refused to comment on any possible nominees, or whether Bush would name a woman to succeed O’Connor. Her departure leaves Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as the only other woman among the current justices.
Court watchers had expected a Supreme Court vacancy during Bush's second term. There was talk that O'Connor and Justice John Paul Stevens, 85, might consider stepping down. And Chief Justice William Rehnquist, 80, has cancer.
Frist: Names floatedOn Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said he's been talking to Democratic leader Harry Reid about nominees for a potential vacancy on the Supreme Court but doesn't have any inside information on whom President Bush might nominate.
"Have Senator Reid and I talked about individual names? Yes, we have in the privacy of our regular meetings," Frist said in a speech at the Heritage Foundation. He wouldn't say whom he and Reid had discussed or characterize their chances in front of the Senate.
Reid later offered three names of people he said would be good for the court: GOP Sens. Mel Martinez of Florida, Mike DeWine of Ohio and Mike Crapo of Idaho. They "are people who serve in the Senate now who are Republicans who I think would be outstanding Supreme Court members," Reid said.
Reid also said that in a conversation with the justices last week, they said that "they thought what would be a good idea is to start calling people from outside the judicial system."
"I think that's something that we should listen to. And I've conveyed this to anyone that will listen," Reid said.
Fourteen senators have served on the Supreme Court. The revolving door has turned the other way only once: David Davis resigned from the court in 1877 to represent Illinois in the Senate as an independent.

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