President Working on O’Connor Replacement

With John Roberts expected to easily win confirmation as Chief Justice, President Bush is working on finding a replacement for Sandra Day O’Connor.

Bush Turns Attention to 2nd Court Vacancy (AP)

With Chief Justice-nominee John Roberts cruising toward confirmation, President Bush is turning his attention to a second vacancy on the nine-member Supreme Court. The president extended invitations Friday to key Senate leaders to meet at the White House next week to discuss the seat held by retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. At the same time, several officials said White House counsel Harriett Miers has made calls to senators to discuss the subject.

O’Connor, who has helped uphold a woman’s right to an abortion and has long been a swing vote on a narrowly divided court, announced her retirement earlier this summer. Bush initially named Roberts to replace her, but the death of Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist two weeks ago abruptly altered the transition. Moving quickly, the president announced he wanted Roberts to become chief justice, and said he would find a new replacement for O’Connor.

There was no reaction to Bush’s invitation to the meeting from either Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., or Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Both Democrats on the guest list issued challenges of sorts to the White House. “It’s a good first step, but consultation is a two-way street,” said Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, who led the Democratic questioning of Roberts at committee confirmation hearings that ended Thursday. Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada issued a statement saying that O’Connor has “been a voice of reason and moderation on the court. It is vital that she be replaced by someone like her, someone who embodies the fundamental American values of freedom, equality and fairness.”

No, Senator, it is not vital. Promoting values is the job of the elected representatives of the people, not judges.

While I would presume any nominee would indeed “embody” those values, a judge’s job is to uphold the law. To some extent, of course, freedom, equality, and fairness are embedded in the Constitution and laws that conflict with those specific guarantees should be ruled invalid by the courts. Otherwise, if the law is an obstacle to freedom, equality, and fairness it is the job of the legislature to correct it.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. DL says:

    Rhenquist will be replaced by Roberts-thus throwing the previous court out-of-balance toward the left. It is imperative that Bush remind the Democrats (and the public because the press will represent otherwise)that in order to restore the balance we need a strong conservative to replace the left leaning O Connor!
    Failing that – remind them that Balance is another liberal lie -it is neither in the Constitution nor required by “precedent”.
    However, every time they open their mouths about it – demand, they pass a new Constitutional amendment requiring such.

    Imbalance was approved when the voters put in Bush knowing that he might be able to appoint one or many new justices. To the victors go the spoils!

  2. Marcia L. Neil says:

    Since Ms. O’Connor has been so blatantly a ‘name-use’ candidate and appointee, uniform standards which govern Supreme Court appointees should include standard employment rules and benefits.