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O’Connor: Judges shouldn’t be partisan politicians

Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor isn’t letting a little hip ailment keep her from extolling the virtues of judicial independence.

At an event yesterday hosted by the non-partisan Constitution Project examining the legacy of the effective assistance of counsel standard established by the Court in Strickland v. Washington, O’Connor, who was on crutches, said judges should not be elected.

The election process, with its partisanship and growing fundraising burdens, puts a political spin on the judicial selection process that goes against the goal of putting the best judges on the bench, O’Connor told the crowd at the Law Library of Congress.

“If I could wave a magic wand … I would wave it to secure some kind of merit selection of judges across the country,” O’Connor said.

She also praised the British system under which prosecutors also serve as defense attorneys. “We see a level of courtesy we don’t see in our country,” O’Connor explained. “They realize there are problems in both areas.” She said lawyers appointed to defend poor defendants should also be paid comparably to prosecutors.

O’Connor arrived at the event in a wheelchair, and used crutches to take the podium to speak. A court official said O’Connor was recovering from a temporary hip condition, according to the Associated Press.

One comment

  1. Unfortunately, for persons representing the poor, Justice O’Connor’s approach would tend to decrease their salaries, since in many states prosecutors are actually paid less than defense lawyers, thus detracting from the aim of securing an equal opportunity for justice in the courts for indigent defendants. In this, as in many other areas, the Supreme Court is shown as living in a vacuum, detached from the real world, and itself acting as a political ‘branch’ contrary to its originally intended purpose.

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