Good to see news of a symposium in her honor. "A Tribute to Justice Sandra Day O'Connor: Reflecting on Justice O'Connor's Jurisprudence Relating to Race and Education," will be held all day on February 22, 2008, at the Columbus School of Law, Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C. (Registration information here.) Speakers include Professors Suzette M. Malveaux, Elizabeth H. Patterson, and Cristina Rodriguez, as well as former Assistant Attorney General Patricia A. Millett.
Hope that in the course of focusing on O'Connor's race/education decisions, participants pay heed to the role played by global context. As I wrote here (p. 1261 & n. 356), O'Connor frequently spoke outside of the Court about the need for dialogue between U.S. judges and their counterparts abroad. She backed those words up with actions, serving both on the American Bar Association's Europe and Eurasia (CEELI) Program and as founding chair of the judicial advisory board of the American Society of International Law. See too her speech to ASIL, just reprinted along with those of other Justices in a new book, A Decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind…
In her opinions O'Connor was more hesitant to invoke overtly foreign/international laws, norms, and context, as I've written here (pp. 602-03) and here (p. 1334). She thus stood in contrast with the woman who succeeded her on ASIL's advisory board, her colleague Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, about whose affinity to comparative constitutional law we've posted. An exception was O'Connor's opinion for the Court in Grutter v. Bollinger (2003). There she grounded her conclusion that government has a compelling interest in diversity -- thus justifying the affirmative action program at the University of Michigan's law school -- on assertions
that the skills needed in today's increasingly global marketplace can only be developed through exposure to widely diverse people, cultures, ideas, and viewpoints.