Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said in an interview aired Sunday that the American public's diminishing approval of the nation’s highest court is a "a great disappointment to me."
"In the past, when the public is asked about three branches of government, the judicial branch has had the highest respect," O’Connor told Bob Schieffer on CBS's "Face the Nation." "Now it’s the same for all, it’s all down. It’s a great disappointment to me."
Earlier this year, the Pew Research Center found that Americans view the current Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts more negatively than at any point in the past 25 years, with a mere 52 percent of citizens viewing it favorably. According to a more recent poll from The New York Times and CBS News, only 44 percent of Americans approve of the current Supreme Court.
O'Connor, who announced her retirement from the court in 2005, ventured a guess as to what precipitated the court’s falling favorability ratings: the Bush v. Gore decision of 2000, in which she joined the 5-4 majority in quashing the Florida recount and ending Al Gore’s presidential hopes.
“There’s been some suggestion that the trend down began with the Bush v. Gore decision,” O’Connor said. “That could be something that triggered public reexamination.”
Yet O’Connor told Schieffer that she doesn’t regret the vote she cast in that case, one of the court's most controversial. “No. It was a tough deal in a closely watched election,” O’Connor said. “It’s no fun to be part of a group of decision makers who have to decide which side the ball is going to fall on.”
O’Connor declined to say how she would have voted in the Supreme Court’s controversial health care decision, in which Roberts joined the court’s liberal wing in upholding the Affordable Care Act's insurance mandate as a tax. She did, however, reiterate her disagreement with the court’s controversial Citizens United decision that helped give rise to super PAC’s and unprecedented corporate spending in elections.
Asked if the growth of super PACs has damaged American politics, O’Connor said, “It hasn’t helped. I’ll put it that way.”
O’Connor had previously suggested the ruling was a mistake, telling law students in 2006 that “no state can possibly benefit from having that much money injected into a political campaign.”