What a George Mason Expert Is Saying about…Sandra Day O’Connor and the Future of the Supreme Court

Posted: July 6, 2005 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of occasional articles on what George Mason experts have to say about a current topic. These are personal opinions and do not reflect an endorsement by George Mason University.

By Tara Laskowski and Catherine Graham

Nelson Lund

Nelson Lund, PhD, professor in the School of Law, served as a law clerk to the Honorable Sandra Day O’Connor of the U.S. Supreme Court. Following his clerkship with O’Connor, Lund served in the White House as associate counsel to the president from 1989 to 1992. He also held positions at the U.S. Department of Justice in the Office of the Solicitor General and the Office of Legal Counsel. He earned a BA from St. John’s College, an MA from Catholic University, an MA and a PhD from Harvard University, and a JD from the University of Chicago.

Regarding the retirement of O’Connor, which was announced last week, Lund said O’Connor “has been an extraordinarily influential member of the Supreme Court. Throughout her career, she was a deciding vote in many prominent cases dealing with issues such as abortion, affirmative action, school vouchers, religious displays in public places, and the death penalty. President Bush’s decision about her replacement, therefore, has the potential to profoundly affect the development of the law for many years to come.”

“It is very difficult to know what legacy O’Connor will leave behind, and it depends on where the court goes in the future. Certainly she will be remembered as the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court. I’m confident that she will also be remembered as a judge who brought enormous energy, self-discipline, and integrity to her work.”

Lund said the future of the court largely depends on who the next justice will be. “The timeline for finding a new justice has varied a lot in the past, but I’m fairly sure that this appointment will face a bigger fight than ever before. Many interest groups understand that this is an opportunity to change the direction of the court, and they have had time to raise money in anticipation of this vacancy,” he said. “It is possible that the president will find a non-controversial nominee, but it is extremely unlikely.”

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