Female Senators Urge O’Connor to Reconsider Retirement

Proving that Arlen Specter is not the only United States Senator lacking a fundamental understanding of politics, four female Senators are lobbying Sandra Day O’Connor to un-resign and move up to Chief Justice.

O’Connor Urged to Reconsider Retirement (AP)

Four female senators called Thursday for retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor to stay on the court and try for chief justice if the ailing William Rehnquist steps down. In a letter to O’Connor, Republicans Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine and Democrats Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Barbara Boxer of California asked the nation’s first female justice to consider staying on the high court if Chief Justice Rehnquist relinquishes the top spot.

Rehnquist was discharged Thursday after two nights in the hospital for treatment of a fever. O’Connor announced her retirement on July 1, but has made it conditional on a replacement being confirmed.

“We urge you to reconsider your resignation and return to the Supreme Court to serve as chief justice, should there be a vacancy,” the senators said in the Thursday letter. The four senators also said they will “strongly recommend” to President Bush that O’Connor become the next chief justice if Rehnquist steps down. “We believe such a history-making nomination by the president would demonstrate leadership that unites Americans around the shared values of liberty, the rule of law and the preservation of our constitutional freedoms,” they said.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and top Judiciary Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont first publicly stoked speculation about a possible O’Connor candidacy for chief justice on Sunday. “I think it would be quite a capping to her career if she served for a time, maybe a year or so,” Specter said.

I’m sure it would. But why would the president appoint O’Connor, who is not only old but who has a wildly different view of the role of the Court, Chief Justice even if she were staying around?

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. ICallMasICM says:

    Cuz she’s a chick?!?!

  2. Rodney Dill says:

    Is it even her choice to stay around at this point? after resigning wouldn’t she have to be renominated by the President to even be on the Supreme Court again?

  3. Bithead says:

    The whole thing is moot, anyway, given Renquist’s reluctance to retirment. If he’s not retiring now, I predict he’ll retire when they carry him out of the building, toes up. Thus the only issue is O’Connor’s replacement.

    Which perhaps is the real issue going on here; The reluctance of the Senators to enter a fight at this time for any replacement at all. Not a suprising reaction, given the very public pre-nomination-fight, fight. (Smirk) Convincing O’Connor to stay on.

  4. Mark says:

    Shouldn’t this all be moot anyway since Rehnquist said he is not going anywhere?

  5. Bithead says:


  6. Anderson says:

    Quite clueless, I agree. TAPPED probably has it right that the oxymoronically-called “moderate Republicans” are trying for brownie points from their constituents, without having any intent to vote against Osama bin Laden should Bush nominate him to the Court.

    (Seriously, does it say anywhere that a supreme court justice has to be an American citizen? It’s not in the Constitution; can Congress create additional criteria for being on the Court, or would that violate the separation of powers?)

  7. McGehee says:

    Anderson, that’s ridiculous. Everyone knows Osama bin Laden isn’t a Constitutional originalist!

    As for your more serious question, wouldn’t the whole President-nominates-Senate-confirms business also violate separation of powers?

    But you know what? That would mesh pretty well with some people’s view of the “separation of church and state” — absolute and impenetrable, and not even the Constitution itself may say otherwise!

  8. Anderson says:

    You’re right, McGehee—if it’s not in the Qur’an, it’s dispensable.

    Strangely, this reminds me of the attitude of some Americans to the Bible-Constitution relationship …

    My question remains, however, whether Congress can impose qualifications for the Court beyond any set out in the Constitution. No question that they can for the lower courts, which are purely Congress’s creation & could be abolished by fiat (leaving the Supremes little to do but review state court decisions). But it seems to me that Congress *couldn’t* do that for the high Court.