Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor has drawn national and international attention for her staunch defense of an independent judiciary in a speech at Georgetown University.
In her March 9 remarks, O’Connor warned that interference with an independent judiciary had allowed dictatorships to flourish in developing and communist countries.
According to National Public Radio, O’Connor blasted certain congressional leaders, though not by name. She criticized former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) for his 2005 broadsides against the court. She also alluded in her speech to Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) who suggested on the Senate floor that violence against judges could be tied to unpopular rulings issued by the courts.
“I want you to tune your ears to these attacks,” O’Connor said, as reported by the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin. “We must be ever vigilant against those who would strong-arm the judiciary.
“Statutes and constitutions do not protect judicial independence,” she continued, “people do.”
Furthermore, O’Connor said there appeared to be little support in the nation for an independent judiciary and noted that authoritarian societies have had no need for independent courts.
According to NPR’s legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg, “It takes a lot of degeneration before a country falls into dictatorship, [O’Connor] said, but we should avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings.”