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Justice O'Connor & Social Security Disability

Thursday, July 7, 2005

OK, what would a legal blog be without our two cents about Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s retirement? What will it mean for New York Social Security disability claimants? Probably a big whopping nothing! Other than her concurring opinion in Sims v Apfel, O’Connor will leave an inconsequential mark on Social Security disability jurisprudence.
However, for the larger disability rights community, Justice O‚ÄôConnor has left a significant positive impact. In the 2004 case of Tennessee v Lane, she sided with paraplegics (bucking Rehnquist, Scalia and Thomas) by upholding the Americans with Disabilities Act and requiring state courts to be accessible to the disabled. In the 2002 death penalty case of Atkins v Virginia, she stood with the majority (again bucking the conservatives) and overruled her own previous 1989 opinion in Penry v Lynaugh, holding that it is “cruel and unusual punishment” to execute the mentally retarded. Bottom Line ‚Äì I think O‚ÄôConnor was a conservative with compassion toward the disabled, and will be missed by the disability rights community at-large.
Now, the $64,000 question turns to her replacement. My bet is that President Bush picks his old pal, Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez. If the evangelicals don‚Äôt burn him at the stake first, I think my fellow Air Force Academy Falcon would be a fine appointment and easily confirmed by the Senate. If the President wants to move his domestic issues forward in Congress while making history appointing the first Hispanic to the Court, Gonzalez would be a wise choice. His administration has made many of them to date…

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