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Advocates Watch Bush For O'Connor Replacement
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
July 6, 2005

WASHINGTON, DC--On July 1, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor announced that she will be resigning from the high court.

Appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, O'Connor became the first woman on the Supreme Court, and quickly established herself as a centrist, rather than liberal or conservative, member. Many issues before the court have been 5-4 decisions, with O'Connor casting the deciding votes.

During her 24-year tenure on the court, O'Connor addressed many disability-related cases, including the 1999 Olmstead decision, in which she sided with the majority, ruling that states violate the Americans with Disabilities Act when they unnecessarily institutionalize people with disabilities, and last years' Lane v. Tennessee decision, in which she agreed that the state violated George Lane's equal protection rights by not requiring courthouses to be accessible to his wheelchair.

In 2001, however, O'Connor ruled against nurse Pat Garrett, who had sued her employer, the state of Alabama, for discriminating against her because of her breast cancer.

Some disability rights advocates have criticized O'Connor for focusing on the complainant's level of disability rather than the discrimination.

"Sandra Day O'Connor believed in helping the 'truly disabled,'" wrote Mary Johnson, editor of the Ragged Edge Magazine. "But she didn't -- honestly didn't -- seem to understand the ADA's concept of disability discrimination."

President George W. Bush has not yet named a replacement for O'Connor.

Jim Ward, founder and president of ADA Watch/National Coalition for Disability Rights, urged Bush to take this opportunity to select a Justice that would recognize the value of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was signed into law by his father 15 years ago this month.

"The nomination of an extremist as opposed to a consensus nominee to fill this crucial seat on the Court, would risk the reversal of Olmstead, Lane, and other historic gains for people with disabilities," Ward said in a press statement.

Related:
"O'Connor Resignation Provides Opportunity for President Bush to Support Disability Rights" (ADA Watch/National Coalition for Disability Rights)

http://releases.usnewswire.com/GetRelease.asp?id=49846
"Sandra Day O'Connor and disability rights" (Ragged Edge Magazine)
http://www.raggededgemagazine.com/focus/oconnorlegacy0705.html

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