Headline: O'Connor Leap Moved Women Up the BenchI could be convinced to the contrary, especially since I was all of 10 years old when O'Connor was nominated, but this seems a classic example of mistaking a consequence for a cause. O'Connor's nomination was part of the larger sea change in the position of women in society; a change that was not some inevitability but the result of real work and agitation by a very large number of people, but not so much O'Connor, and certainly not Ronald Reagan. Whether O'Connor's nomination had any genuinely independent effect on its own would seem much less clear. That is, had Reagan nominated a male instead of O'Connor, do we really think women would have substantially fewer or more inferior judicial appointments than they do now? Would there even be any difference at all? In any case, if O'Connor hadn't been nominated, presumably there would have been increasing sentiment/pressure to nominate a woman with each successive vacancy. I understand that when someone retires/dies there is all this impetus to lavish credit on their legacy, but I don't like giving Reagan and O'Connor causal credit for achievements of the women's movement generally.
"You would be very hard pressed to find anyone in the history of the court who was elevated from that role," said Kermit L. Hall, the president of the State University of New York at Albany and the editor of "The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States." "It speaks volumes to the presence of women on the bench at that time. O'Connor really opened up a set of opportunities that really would not have existed without her."
Eleanor Smeal, who was the president of the National Organization for Women in 1981, said the O'Connor nomination was a turning point. "At that time women were a very teeny percentage of judges," Ms. Smeal said. "We were begging male judges to give us our rights, and we wanted someone on the inside."
Tuesday, July 05, 2005
causality bites, scotus edition