Friday, July 01, 2005

Swing Low, Swing Right?

The stunning announcement came early this morning that Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor is resigning from the United States Supreme Court.

The declaration shocked Court watchers who had expected any resignation from the Court after the recent end of the Court's session would be that of the ailing and conservative Chief Justice William Rehnquist. A resignation which would have had very little impact on the precarious balance of the Court.

However, with Justice O'Connor's resignation the Court could now be off kilter. The first woman Justice was a trailblazing moderate who was the swing vote on numerous decisions including affirmative action and gay rights and was one of the six votes that protected abortion.

While abortion rights may be safe, for the time being, affirmative action now may be in dire straits with a new justice appointed by President George W. Bush.

The President and his administration are no friends of affirmative action, even filing an amicus brief against the concept in the critical case dealing with the admission policies of the University of Michigan (a case in which Justice O'Connor cast the deciding vote to allow race as a factor in college adminssions); the administration has been waiting for this moment for four years. Waiting for the moment to begin to swing the court in a more conservative direction.

Ironically the entity that gave George W. Bush the presidency may now be shaped in his conservative ideology for decades to come because a pragmatic, moderate and thoughtful justice has called it quits.