Thursday, July 18, 2019
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Justice O'Connor breezes through Twin Cities on day she steps down from Supreme Court
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It is unclear why Justice O'Connor was in the Twin Cities. When asked why she was in Minnesota, the justice looked surprised and sped off on an airport motorized cart. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Retiring U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor stopped in the Twin Cities Friday afternoon after flying in from Washington. The justice declined to answer questions about why she decided to step down and why she was in the Twin Cities.

Minneapolis, Minn. — A handful of reporters and several security guards stood watch as Northwest Airlines flight 779 from Washington's Reagan National Airport pulled into the gate at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

A parade of passengers got off the plane. That parade included four members of Minnesota's congressional delegation. One passenger was Rep. Jim Ramstad, R-Minn., who, after deplaning, remained near the gate.

When Justice O'Connor appeared from the jetway and walked toward a waiting motorized cart, Ramstad stopped her, introduced himself, and said he hated to see her retire.

"I hate to, too," said O'Connor.

"Thank you for many years of outstanding service on the court," Ramstad said.

"It's been a real privilege," replied O'Connor.

Besides Rep. Ramstad, O'Connor's flight also carried Rep. Martin Sabo, D-Minn., Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., and Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn. Coleman said he anticipates President Bush will choose a justice who will follow the Constitution and will not legislate from the bench.

"I don't think he's going to look for a carbon copy of Justice O'Connor, who's an outstanding judge who has a great record and played an important role on the court," said Coleman. "But for me the focus is on mostly process which would start with the consultative process, visiting with members of the Senate, and then a commitment from the Senate to get the job done and not to get involved in filibustering."

One of the major questions awaiting the next Supreme Court justice is whether or not he or she supports legalized abortion. O'Connor frequently cast the swing vote supporting legalized abortion when that controversial issue came before the court.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to take up two abortion-related cases this fall, one of which deals with parental notification laws.

In Minnesota, those on opposing sides of the abortion debate do not agree on what O'Connor's retirement means. Those who support legalized abortion say O'Connor has been the most important justice in keeping abortion legal.

Tim Stanley, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota, says his group is concerned justices will overturn the landmark ruling legalizing abortion, Roe v. Wade.

"She has prevailed and kept Roe basically intact for her entire career of 20 years, she's been the swing vote," Stanley said. "So this really just casts a bright light on the actual reality that Roe is at risk with this vacancy and Bush's appointment of a new judge."

Meanwhile, Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life or MCCL, a group that opposes legalized abortion, has a different view of O'Connor's retirement. MCCL's Executive Director, Scott Fischbach discounts NARAL's contention that Roe is at risk. He says, however, his group is optimistic about what a new justice will bring to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"We're looking forward to a vigorous discussion about the president's new nominee, whoever that might be. We are hopeful that he will nominate an individual who will look at the Constitution in its text and in its history and try not to legislate from the bench," Fischbach said.

It is unclear why Justice O'Connor was in the Twin Cities. When asked why she was in Minnesota, the justice looked surprised and sped off on an airport motorized cart.