Home Politics Biden Eulogizes Sandra Day O’Connor With Plea for Principles Over Politics | National News

Biden Eulogizes Sandra Day O’Connor With Plea for Principles Over Politics | National News

Biden Eulogizes Sandra Day O’Connor With Plea for Principles Over Politics | National News

At a moment when the legitimacy of the high court hangs in the balance and American democracy is quite literally on trial, the death of former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor – the first woman to be confirmed to the country’s highest court – prompted pleas for a return to a time when law and service and principle and justice outweighed politics and partisanship.

President Joe Biden, delivering O’Connor’s eulogy Tuesday at Washington National Cathedral, hailed her as “gracious and wise, civil and principled,” and “an American pioneer” who blazed a trail that opened the door to high-powered positions for women across the country.

Biden, who oversaw her confirmation in 1981 as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, noted that during her opening statement before the committee, O’Connor described the Supreme Court as “a body to which all Americans look for the ultimate protection of their rights. It’s the United States Supreme Court that we all turn when we seek that which we want most from our government – equal justice under law.”

“Equal justice under law is as noble as the noblest aspiration of humankind – an aspiration of Sandra Day O’Connor and one that she pursued her whole life,” Biden said. “The last justice to have held an elected office, she was especially conscious of the law’s real impact on people’s lives. One may not agree with all of her decisions in order to recognize that her principles were deeply held and of the highest order, and that her desire for civility was genuine.”

Her work, he added, “helped empower generations of women in every part of American life, including the court itself. It helped open doors, secure freedoms and proved that a woman can not only do anything a man can do, but oftentimes can do it a hell of – a heck of – a lot better.”

Indeed, roughly two-thirds of the federal judges Biden has appointed so far in his tenure are women.

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O’Connor, who died earlier this month at 93, was confirmed 99-0, which Biden said at the time of her death is “proof that our nation can come together to move history forward.”

Though considered a staunch Republican who was appointed by former President Ronald Reagan – at the time the most conservative president ever elected – O’Connor was respected by both sides of the aisle and became the fulcrum around which the court pivoted, acting more as a moderate in an attempt to buttress against the court’s move to the right.

“Yes, America is a land of rugged individualists, adventurers and entrepreneurs,” Biden said. “But she knew no person is an island. In the fabric of our nation, we are all inextricably linked. And for America to thrive, Americans must see themselves not as enemies but as partners in the great work of deciding our collective destiny. That’s the essence of our national experience – the sacred call of democracy she devoted her life to and one that we must continue.”

His words echoed through the National Cathedral at a moment when the sanctity of the high court itself hangs in the balance.

Americans’ confidence in the Supreme Court, which had been on a steady downward trend for years, plummeted to historic lows after its conservative majority reversed the guaranteed right to an abortion last year and gutted affirmative action this year – two long-standing decisions that O’Connor provided the crucial deciding votes to uphold during her tenure.

As it stands, just 25% of Americans say they have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the Supreme Court, according to Gallup.

The misgivings surrounding the court are further compounded by a series of embarrassing ethics transgressions involving multiple justices, past and present, who accepted things like luxury trips, flights on private jets and back-door real estate deals with billionaires who then took business before the court.

The lion’s share of the scandals unearthed by investigative news organization ProPublica and others center on Justice Clarence Thomas and his relationship with GOP billionaire donor Harlan Crow, who, new reporting shows, started lavishing Thomas with expensive gifts after Thomas voiced frustration with his salary and implied that he’d resign from the Supreme Court if his financial situation didn’t change.

The predicament presents a unique problem for Chief Justice John Roberts and his colleagues: A Supreme Court bereft of integrity – at least in the eyes of the majority of Americans – is one whose decisions hold little sway. To be sure, the court is not responsible for implementing its own decisions, but if its decisions are no longer respected, those who are in charge of implementing them will be less incentivized to do so.

Roberts, who is seeking to cement his legacy at a tumultuous moment in politics, also delivered a eulogy on Tuesday, calling O’Connor a “strong, influential and iconic jurist.”

“She had to speak and teach and inspire to the country and around the world about the necessity of judicial independence so our generation and the next would have a road map to safeguard it with all the gifts God has given us,” he said.

It’s that very judicial independence that’s soon set to be tested in groundbreaking ways as the high court teed up a series of political hot potatoes last week, including a bid to maintain access to a widely used abortion pill, an appeal of one of the key charges filed against those who participated in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol and – potentially – consideration of former President Donald Trump’s claim to vast executive immunity.

Combined with its earlier decision to also reconsider a federal law that makes it a crime for people under domestic violence restraining orders to have guns, the cases that the justices agreed to hear are set to have major ramifications for voter turnout in the 2024 presidential election and could have dramatic implications for the legitimacy of the Supreme Court.

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