Yesterday I waited an hour in line in order to see her teach a class, which was really a question and answer session. She was very interesting--if I could use three words to describe her I would use feisty, charming, and intelligent. She was extremely knowledgeable and could easily think on her feet, despite being at least 77 years old. She had a wonderful sense of humor and said things like, "They sure don't have any cowgirls like me" on the Supreme Court (referring to the fact that all of the U.S. Supreme Court justices have served as U.S. Court of Appeals judges in the past. This is a criticism of the current court: some believe that it is beneficial to have at least one judge who has not served in the federal system yet). She spoke of how to balance home life and a career, what it was like to be the first woman on the Supreme Court ("hard"), and what it was like to have the press following her after she was sworn in.
Today she lectured 500 or so people on the Missouri Plan, which is a system of appointing judges around a state. Many states still elect all of their judges in a partisan election, but in Missouri we do not elect any appeals or Supreme Court judges. Instead, people are chosen by a bi-partisan committee and then finally chosen by the governor. This fall a family friend went through this process and was selected to be an Appeals Judge for the Eastern District of Missouri.
Justice O'Connor is a proponent of the Missouri Plan. She argues that holding elections for judges promotes wasteful spending on campaigns, promotes unfairness in the court system, and diminishes the public's opinion of the judges.
Personally I can see her point. She gave an example of a judge who was given $3 million by a donor for his campaign and won. This judge went on to cast the deciding vote in a case against the donor's company--needless to say, the donor won that case. I think that it would be too hard to separate the desire to be elected in the future from actual law in some cases.
Overall I feel so lucky to have seen Justice O'Connor. She was a wonderful speaker! What do you think of the Missouri Plan?