Former clerk remembers Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s legacy


Former clerk remembers Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s legacy

NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly talks with Justin Driver, former clerk for Supreme Courtroom Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, about O’Connor’s life and legacy.


We’re remembering Sandra Day O’Connor, who died at the moment on the age of 93. She was the primary feminine justice on the Supreme Courtroom. Appointed by President Reagan again in 1981, she served greater than 24 years. And it was in 2006 – the yr she retired – that Justin Driver got here to work for her. He’s her former clerk. He’s now a regulation professor at Yale, and he joins me now. Welcome.

JUSTIN DRIVER: Thanks for having me.

KELLY: What do you keep in mind concerning the first time you met her?

DRIVER: So I keep in mind interviewing with Justice O’Connor to turn into her regulation clerk and being, in fact, slightly nervous earlier than heading in for the interview. And as quickly as I met her, she was an extremely heat and interesting individual. And we had a beautiful dialog, and she or he was – very a lot put me comfy.

KELLY: I imply, all people graduating from regulation college, I think about, fantasizes about clerking for a Supreme Courtroom justice. Did you wish to work for her particularly?

DRIVER: I felt significantly honored to clerk for Justice O’Connor. She was very hesitant to have selections that overturned precedents. She considered the regulation as being an incremental and stabilizing power in American society, and her imaginative and prescient of the regulation is one which aligned with my very own.

KELLY: I wish to ask about affirmative motion as a result of she wrote the choice for the courtroom in 2003 that validated affirmative motion. This was the case involving the College of Michigan Legislation Faculty. And he or she, in that call, emphasised the significance of racial variety at elite tutorial establishments. She additionally wrote – and there is a line that has been a lot cited since – we anticipate that, 25 years from now, using racial preferences will not be vital. You clerked for her just some years after that. How do you imagine she was wrestling with this?

DRIVER: You realize, Justice O’Connor was an extremely sensible justice. So she was – deeply understood that, to ensure that the nation to have the ability to perform – ours is a multiracial democracy – that we have to have significant numbers of Black and brown college students at elite tutorial establishments. So I view the Grutter determination as being form of emblematic of her method to the regulation, which was a sensible method. And I believe that that was a call that stood the nation in good stead.

KELLY: Within the years since she left the courtroom, the courtroom has gone in a really totally different path than the one she took, whether or not it involves affirmative motion or abortion – one other subject by which her rulings had been decisive. In mild of that, how do you consider her legacy? What is going to it’s?

DRIVER: Justice O’Connor has a permanent legacy, and it comes from her constitutional imaginative and prescient, which is paying nice consideration to precedent – an incremental method to the regulation. Her greatness lies within the form of subtlety of the method that she used. Slightly than having some form of grand, overarching ideology that she was imposing in each opinion alongside the best way, as an alternative, she was seeing selections from the underside up, and that’s an interesting constitutional imaginative and prescient. And even when it is not ascendant in all authorized circles proper now, I imagine that future legal professionals will recognize her method to judging.

KELLY: I do not know when the final time you noticed her was, however you need to have stayed in contact as a result of I’m advised she officiated at your wedding ceremony.

DRIVER: Yeah. She was an extremely particular individual in my life, and she or he was variety sufficient to officiate at my wedding ceremony in 2008. And he or she was dedicated to all of her regulation clerks. She actually did view us as extensions of her household, and we did stay in contact. She was only a heat individual, , an enticing individual, and, , she had a twinkle in her eye.

KELLY: Did you get an opportunity to thank her – like, actually thank her – inform her what you are telling us now?

DRIVER: Sure, I did. After I clerked for her, I noticed her in Arizona a couple of years again and talked about what an unimaginable distinction she made in my life.

KELLY: That’s Justice O’Connor’s former clerk and present professor of regulation at Yale, Justin Driver. Thanks.

DRIVER: Thanks very a lot.

Copyright © 2023 NPR. All rights reserved. Go to our web site phrases of use and permissions pages at for additional data.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This textual content will not be in its ultimate kind and could also be up to date or revised sooner or later. Accuracy and availability might differ. The authoritative file of NPR’s programming is the audio file.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here