O’Connor: Declining approval for high court a ‘disappointment’

Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor called the declining public approval of the high court a “great disappointment” and suggested the ruling in Bush v. Gore may have sparked the public’s loss of faith in the judicial branch.

In the past, when the public is asked about the three branches of government, the court has generally had, the juridical branch has had the highest respect among the three, and now it's about the same for all, and it's all down,” said ,” O’Connor, In an interview aired Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation. “So that's a great disappointment to me to see.”

Asked to explain the declining support for the court, O’Connor suggested that the controversial ruling in Bush v. Gore may have contributed. 

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“There's been some suggestion, again by poll-takers, that that trend down for the judicial branch began with the Bush-Gore decision. That was one that was widely talked about at the time, as you know, and involved the public in a presidential election. And that could be something that triggered public reexamination.”

O’Connor said the decision was a “tough deal in a closely fought election” and acknowledged the case placed the court in a difficult situation. “And it's no fun to be part of a group of decision-makers that has to decide which side the ball is going to fall on.”

O’Connor also defended Chief Justice John Roberts whose decision to side with the liberal wing of the court and uphold President Obama’s signature domestic healthcare reform bill sparked anger on the right. 

She said she did not believe the decision heralded a shift by the Roberts court to the left. “I don't see it at all. I see it deciding a very sensitive case with political connotations,” she said about the Roberts healthcare opinion. 

“This is one important case in a series of cases,” she added.

She also cautioned against speculation in the press about the relationships between justices and how the decision was reached, after reports suggesting a rift between Roberts and other conservative justices.

“I just don't see how anybody would be in a position to know what was said, O’Connor noted.

O’Connor also declined to state how she would have voted had she been on the court. 

But the former justice remained highly critical of the Citizens United ruling, from which she dissented on the bench and said the role of super-PACs in the political system “hasn’t helped.”