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Justice O'Connor Keeps Hearing Cases Despite Her Political Causes

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on December 05, 2011 5:49 AM

When former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor retired, court-watchers expected her to fade into the background. After all, she had left to take care of her ailing husband.

It's nearly six years later and Justice O'Connor is more active than ever. She's served on a commission that studied the Iraq war, and launched a website on civics education. She's also heard about 140 appellate cases.

But to some, O'Connor's full calendar is cause for concern.

Justice O'Connor believes that a lack of education is threatening judicial independence, reports the Washington Post. Citizens don't understand a judge's role, and instead invoke religion and activism. They also try to recall judges who make unpopular decisions.

So, in addition to her civics education campaign, she has involved herself in political campaigns themselves. She is actively trying to convince voters that judges should be appointed, not elected. Campaign contributions and partisanship compromise the judiciary.

Some question whether O'Connor should engage in such political activities while she continues to hear cases. After all, she has chosen to make herself available for designation to the circuit courts.

Senior judge Laurence H. Silberman of the D.C. Circuit has gone so far as to call her activities a "real ethical concern," according to the Post.

But O'Connor has a different opinion:

"My understanding of the canons of judicial ethics is that it's expressly allowed for judges to take positions on things affecting the operations of the courts...Nothing affects them more than how judges are chosen."

"So I read that as being totally allowed -- totally."

Do you think her political activities are totally allowed? Or should Sandra Day O'Connor stop hearing cases?

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