Barney Frank on Justice O’Connor

A Justice’s retirement does not bring an end to dissenting opinions. Sandra Day O’Connor’s recently published book (Out of Order: Stories From the History of the Supreme Court) has received tough criticism from reviewers, especially from those who expected inside perspective about cases and issues where O’Connor played a key role during her years on the Supreme Court.

For example, Adam Liptak, who covers SCOTUS for The New York Times, was dismissive in his review:

She has a lot to say. But, the provocative title of her new book notwithstanding, she is not saying it here. Instead, she has delivered a disjointed collection of anodyne anecdotes and bar-association bromides about the history of the Supreme Court. “Out of Order” is a gift shop bauble, and its title might as well refer to how disorganized and meandering it is.

In a letter published in Sunday’s NYT Book Review, former Rep. Barney Frank, noting O’Connor’s comments referencing the Court’s shift to the right since her retirement, observes:

[T]hese reversals of her jurisprudence were entirely predictable results of her decision to time her resignation so that George W. Bush could replace her. After the 2000 election she said that because there was a Republican president, she could retire. Had O’Connor retired during the Clinton presidency, her successor would almost certainly have supported her decisions on campaign funding, abortion and affirmative action.

What she is expressing is an example of “resignation remorse,” and she should not be surprised by what she enabled.