Term Paper: Sandra O'connor Sandra Day

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[. . .] One could only observe and assume how her personal and professional lives were in constant adjustment, along with the constant and continuous changes of the rules, and this alchemy made up her jurisprudence mold (Cook).

In her entire career, Sandra exuded coldness and a lack of humor (Hedding). She was viewed as the great and consummate compromiser, whose chief aim was to simply achieve the majority vote. She was conservative and tough, but not too tough or conservative concerning women's and children's rights. She made it quite clear that the Constitutional role of a justice was to interpret the law, not to legislate, that is, make a new one.

As a pragmatist, Sandra normally began reviewing a case by first inductively discovering the decisional principles through reading selected opinions and internal memos covering a full range of issues. From there, she would proceed deductively by applying the principles to her initial opinions in three specific issue areas (Cook). Among her inputs for study were data from Thurgood Marshall, which Sandra used to develop concepts. The justices then exchanged conference memos. These memos demonstrated that Sandra's effort to promote her own theory was often seriously considered, but ultimately rejected by the other justices. These memos also showed that, despite the rejection, Sandra remained obstinate and pressed for her position. She also protected her position vigorously and rewrote her opinions to respond to the criticisms prepared by other justices for publication (Cook).

Maveety wrote that Sandra, however, exercised some flexibility towards issues to which she had as yet no answers, so that she could have the freedom to change her vote after conferring or considering other authoritative writings. She took recourse upon private papers she found in the Library of Congress with which to enrich her work and support her claim. Maveety saw two types of accommodation Sandra resorted to: jurisprudential and behavioral. When she balanced her arguments, preferred to retain but refashion precedents, used case facts to narrow down rulings, and showed or expressed aversion to bright-line rules, she was accommodating jurisprudentially. But when she wrote a separate opinion, limited her agreement with the right and left bloc positions or preferred to exert influence from within the majority, she was doing it behaviorally (Cook). Maveety considered Sandra's accommodation-ism as constituting a jurisprudence in itself, that led Maveety to employ her tradition method of analysis, which in turn, points to Sandra's flexible and capable use of precedent and balancing that get on the way of getting translated into variables needed for statistical models and interpretations. It must be noted, as Maveety failed to, that Sandra's jurisprudence did not utilize the tools of finding law, for example, intent or plain meaning (Cook). Her flexibility in decision-making in combination with a disinterest in legal foundations gave her the freedom to concentrate on the application of the law to specific case facts and its consequences for specific individuals. This style, though, antagonized her colleagues for whom the identification of legal foundations were the utmost and overriding consideration (Cook).

Author Maveety could find no specific values in Sandra's background on which to ground her court behavior, except her partisan activities that indicate her sympathy with conservative policy outcomes. Neither did she find any basis for Sandra's conventional behavioral mode. Even when a case's issues involve conflicting values of equal importance, a justice must draw a fairy dichotomous dispositional opinion, regardless of the hardness or pliability of the legal test (Cook).

Maveety's description of behavioral accommodation appeared to be weaker than that of jurisprudential accommodation, when specifically applied to Sandra's practice. Sandra both voted for the majority disposition and wrote a concurring opinion, and in Maveety's view, it was difficult to distinguish sincere from strategic majority votes. Sometimes, Sandra would make tentative or change her vote, before agreeing with the majority, could expand her options and, for whatever internal purposes or motives, she could induce another justice into revising the draft (Cook). Nonetheless, memos that reflected a delay in joining Court opinion or a dissent were not unsettling for Sandra but merely routine tactics of influence. Some statistics could show how Sandra compared with other justice in what is called "strategic fluidity."

Maveety interpreted Sandra's concurrence mode as "a rational strategy for judicial actors seeking to influence the future formation and composition of winning opinion coalitions (qtd in Cook). But it should be noted that she was doing it alone: Brennan, White, Powell, Kennedy, Scalia and Stevens formed more concurring opinions, too, and they did not observe Sandra's jurisprudential slant. One may wonder if she differed in her strategic behaviors from her conservative colleagues, who could have also wanted to emphasize their doctrine on the majority. To this, Maveety responded that the forming or writing of separate opinions might constitute and be treated as a kind of leadership, rather than an accommodationist strategy (Cook).

Sandra appeared disinclined to accommodate the stiff doctrine of the right or the left, but insisted on her own standards in making decisions, particularly when the consequence of a plurality decision did not suggest (the need or urgency for) accommodation. Her doctrines may have been accommodating, but she was not exactly willing to take in bright-line rules in the same way that her colleagues were unwilling to give in to her standards of flexibility (Cook).

The author veered a bit from Sandra's accommodationist style in case problems. She turned to Sandra's most important contribution to the collective output, or precedential decisions, of the Supreme Court. Her colleagues and her community were not in a hurry to acknowledge her ability and ambition. Sandra's life story, however, vastly and clearly reveals her work ethic, organizational and analytical skills, efficiency, concentration and persistence, developed in community service and in state government as immediately available to her bid for Court leadership (Cook), which she eventually gained when she became the first female Chief Justice. The author illustrated this reality in Sandra's proposed doctrinal language for abortion, religion, and race cases, and in the formulation of successive special opinions, and, most importantly, in successfully gaining a majority or plurality vote to incorporate these, whether openly or covertly, into case law. One can infer that her successes may be the outcome of the minority status of ideological extremists.

The values and issues that ensued from Sandra's economic cases could serve as more severe test of her principles and strategies. The outcome or consequences of her economic and criminal jurisprudence, on the other hand, could speak of the significance of her political experience in state administration, such as at the attorney-general's office, and in the state judiciary, such as in the trial and appellate courts (Cook). The author could not and did not establish any firm federalism principle in Sandra's vote for abortion, church-state, race and death penalty opinions. It was simply that her accommodationist jurisprudence was different and "revolutionary (qtd in Cook)." She points to only one justice with a similar common-sense approach that was Harlan, indicating her having served in a historical court.

Maveety utilized two conflicting origins of modern thought, i.e., 16th century humanism and 17th century rationalism in striving to decode Sandra. While the humanist dealt more on the nature and circumstances of a particular civil or criminal action, the rationalist gave more weight to drawing or developing rules and dealt with the issues independently. These two thinkers directly opposed each other: local vs. universal, timely vs. timeless, the concrete vs. The abstract and the clear vs. The confusing. Sandra took account of the problem itself and the situation, while respecting the details and so could have been catalogued as a humanist (Cook). The two moral philosophies withheld support for the modern psychological theory that aligned masculinity with formal rule-bound morality and femininity, with flexible context-responsive morality (Cook). Neither was gender-based for four centuries. Sandra constantly denied that gender influenced her decision-making not only had strong historical foundation, but also put her in a single class, unless and until later research discovers an earlier genre among the Renaissance or Greeks (Cook).

In March 2000, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor announced that the U.S. would make its own decisions and go its own way concerning executions, especially of those convicts under 18 (UPI 2000). She made this announcement during the Conference on Democracy and the Rule of Law in a Changing World Order at the Library of Congress in Washington DC and before an audience, consisting of jurists and academics from the U.S., Europe, Asia and Latin America.

Despite the pronouncement, she complemented international law in general. She noted the interest of the international community in vindicating the normal of an "international society" by prosecuting and punishing transgressors of the basic standards of human behavior (UPI)." But she said that the principle that applied to South Africa was more complicated, even broken down, sometimes, in states in transition from an authoritarian to a democratic one. She expressed belief that a new democratic regime should… [END OF PREVIEW]

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"Sandra O'connor Sandra Day."  Essaytown.com.  March 30, 2004.  Accessed July 18, 2019.