Some Interesting Bits about the nomination of Justice O’Connor

May 8th, 2012

Kyle Graham links to three cool documents he culled from the Reagan libraries regarding the nomination of Justice O’Connor.

First, a memo from AG William French Smith. Here are some of the highlights.

Potter Stewart told VP Bush (a friend) that he was retiring in March of 1981 (not too long after inauguration). Due to the attempted assassination, on March 30, 1981, Reagan was not informed until April 21, 1981. Stewart formally announced his retirement on June 18, 1981.

On March 4, 1981, Attorney General William French Smith received a telephone call from Vice President Bush advising him that United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart would like to meet with the Attorney General. The Vice President, being a close friend of Justice Stewart, asked the Attorney General to arrange such a meeting. The Attorney General responded that he would do so. He then called Justice Stewart and arranged to meet him at his home at 5136 Palisade Lane, Washington, D.C. on March 26, 1981. At that meeting, Justice Stewart advised the Attorney General that he intended to resign in early July at the end of the then-current Supreme Court term. He wanted his decision to remain confidential, however, until he thought it would be appropriate to make the matter public, presumably in early June. The Attorney General informed Justice Stewart that he \vould keep the matter confidential, advising only the President. A general discussion concerning desirable qualifications for a successor followed. The Attorney General then greeted Mrs. Stewart and left.

Ken Star listed “Judge Sandra O’Connor” on a short list (he forgot Day).

So what did SDO focus on in the Arizona Senate?

The documentary search indicated that Judge O’Connor, one of the few lawyers serving in the Arizona legislature during her terms, was publicly identified with three principal issues: (1) administration of criminal and civil justice (including death penalty legislation, increased penalties for drug offenders, improved prisons and mental institutions, and merit selection of judges); (2) state revenue law reform along the lines of California’s Proposition 13; and (3) women’s rights, including amending provisions of Arizona statutes which appeared unduly discriminatory against women. There was no indication of her having taken any position on abortion. The individuals interviewed failed to identify any major issues with which Judge O’Connor had been publicly identified other than those listed above.

The AG called her and told her she was being considered for “a federal position.” Ha!

On Thursday, June 25, 1981,. the Attorney General placed a telephone call to Judge O’Connor. He told her that he would like to consider her for a federal position and asked if she could come to Washington and meet him at dinner the following Sunday. . . .

On Honday, June 29, Judge O’Connor flew to Washington for dinner with the Attorney General and Hrs. Smith at the Jefferson Hotel. Hrs. Smith knew Judge O’Connor was being considered for a federal appointment, but she did not know which one. On the following morning, Tuesday, June 30, 1981, Judge 0′ Connor had breakfast at the L’ Enfant Plaza Hotel vii th the Attorney General, Edward C. Schmults, Deputy Attorney General; and William P. Clark, Deputy Secretary of State and former Justice of the California Supreme Court. Later that afternoon, also at L’Enfant Plaza Hotel, Judge O’Connor met with the Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney General, Edwin Heese III, Counselor to the President; James A. Baker III, Chief of Staff and Assistant to the President; Hichael K. Deaver, Deputy Chief of Staff and Assistant to the President, and Fred F. Fielding, Counsel to the President.

And this is kinda bad-ass:

It was also decided that since there was much speculation in the press about Judge O’Connor, it \’/ould be better if the Attorney General went to the White House separately. Miss Tankersley would bring Judge O’Connor to the White House. Judge O’Connor was attending meetings in Washington and had left with Miss Tankersley telephone numbers by which she could be reached. The Attorney General contacted Judge O’Connor. He advised her that the President wished to meet with her and that Miss Tankersley would meet her in fifteen minutes to escort her to the White House. Judge O’Connor advised that she would be waiting for Miss Tankersley at Dupont Circle, in front of a drug store there, and that for identification purposes she was wearing a lavender suit. Miss Tankersley met Judge O’Connor and escorted her to Mr. Deaver’s office in the White House.

After meeting with a bunch of Senators, SDO asked to brush up on certain areas:

Based on the subjects raised in the courtesy calls, Judge O’Connor asked for materials on issues concerning constitutional conventions, Congressional efforts to limit areas of the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, the Hyde Amendment (which denied federal funds for abortions unless the life of the mother was threatened by pregnancy), precedent for refusal of judicial nominees to answer questions concerning topics likely to come before the Court, and several other topics.

All day Friday, September 4, was devoted to a “moot court” question-and-answer session in the Attorney General’s conference room. Judge O’Connor asked that further briefing materials be prepared in several additional areas, including homosexuality and parental consent issues. . . .¬†Judge O’Connor was also given briefing materials on removal of religious institutions’ tax exemptions and Second Amendment restrictions on gun control.