Retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor says she has second thoughts on whether the Supreme Court should have accepted Bush v. Gore — the deeply controversial case that effectively decided the 2000 presidential election.
“It took the case and decided it at a time when it was still a big election issue,” O’Connor told the Chicago Tribune editorial board last Friday. “Maybe the court should have said, ‘We’re not going to take it, goodbye.'”
In a 5-4 decision at the time, O’Connor voted with four other Republican-appointed justices to shut down the recount in Florida, the decisive state in the election.
“Obviously the court did reach a decision and thought it had to reach a decision,” the retired justice told the Tribune editorial board. “It turned out the election authorities in Florida hadn’t done a real good job there and kind of messed it up. And probably the Supreme Court added to the problem at the end of the day.”
O’Connor, the first woman Supreme Court justice who retired in 2006, lamented that the case “stirred up the public” and “gave the court a less-than-perfect reputation.” Legal experts have noted that the Court has not cited the decision even once since it was made, which some interpret as a testament to its soundness.
The Reagan-appointed former justice, who was the pivotal swing vote in many key cases prior to her retirement, has since seen parts of her judicial legacy unravel on issues like abortion, campaign finance and race-based government policies, thanks in part to her Bush-appointed successor, Samuel Alito.