Sunday, March 17, 2013

Justice O'Connor tells Jon Stewart to Read

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor
By Josh Swanner

Retired Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor proved she could hold her own against Jon Stewart when she appeared on the Daily Show early this March. They initially discussed her new book, Out of Order. She wrote the book to tell “some of the stories of how the Court works, giving people a glimpse into some of the things.”

Stewart remarked on the pressure justices must feel on the Court when faced with weighty decisions. Decisions regarding, for instance the franchise of the vote, that have a large impact on the future. O’Connor agreed.

Then Stewart asked, “You ever have [a decision] you wanted to back, that you put out there and then you were like, ‘dahhhh! That was a rough one.’”

“Well, if I did, I wouldn’t say,” she replied.

Stewart responded, his voice rising, “Oh, come on, Justice! Get in there!”

While everyone laughed at this exchange, it highlighted how protective Justices are of their decision-making process.

For instance Stewart asked O’Connor who is the best writer on the Court. Her response was predictable—“Oh my, I’m not going to tell you.”

“Why are the Justices so tight-lipped?” Stewart lamented.

He remarked that Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor recently stopped by the show and that she too would not open up about the Court's process. “I feel like there is something very deep that people who serve on the Court are protecting. There’s a veil—"

“Yes,” O’Connor interrupted. “I think we respect the institution. We served on it, we respect it, we admire it, and we don’t want to do some damage.”


“Really,” O’Conner asserted, “we don’t.”

“Do you feel like if we knew more about it, we would respect it less or more?"

“Well I think more.” O’Connor’s voice rose. “And you do know a lot about it because we explain, in detail, every decision.”

Stewart: “Well, that’s reading…” [laughter]

O’Connor: “Nobody else explains it like that…yeah, that’s reading!”

Stewart: “And it’s very complicated.”

O’Connor: “It is complicated.”

Stewart: “It’s extraordinarily complicated!”

“The Supreme Court,” O’Connor later explained, “is the one branch of government that has written explanations for everything it decides and does. That’s pretty impressive. No other branch of government, no member of Congress has to write some written explanation of everything.”

“That’s such a good point.”

“Yes, not bad.” O’Connor quipped.

“In some ways, this is going to sound crazy,” Stewart switched his hat to reporter-therapist, “do the Justices, after doing that job for a while, feel judged? And therefore that, is that why you’re somewhat protective?”

“I think you do feel judged. You do feel judged. You feel that everything you do is under scrutiny, everybody in the country who has an interest in it, they can see it, and look at it…

“Any idiot can like, make fun of it on a show,” Stewart said.

“Correct.” The audience laughed.

“Make a joke of it, or whatever.”

O’Connor laughed, “Right! That’s not fair.”

“Well,” Stewart’s voice dropped, “if I see somebody doing it, you can be sure I will stop them…as it goes.”


  1. Jon Stewart is great at making people seem funny. Not that she ISN'T funny, but he sets people up well.

  2. I agree with Ginny. I do love to watch him interact with people, it's part of what makes his show great. I love how he can touch on even the most serious of subjects but still engage an audience and keep it light and interesting. Great job!