O'Connor dodged questions about whether she would retire soon after 22
years on the court.
O'Connor, who was appointed by Republican Ronald Reagan, denied published
reports that her husband told people on election night in 2000 that she wanted
Republican George Bush to win so she could step down. Asked if people can take
from her silence about her future that she intends to remain at the court
another year, she said only: "I assume so."
The joint interview was highly unusual. Some of the court's nine members
give no interviews. Those who do grant them only rarely.
The program was taped Friday in Philadelphia where O'Connor received the
city's Liberty Medal. ABC provided a transcript in advance of the
The justices were not asked about cases in the recently completed term. In
it, the court upheld the continued use of race as a factor in university
admissions and issued a sweeping ruling that said gay men and women cannot be
prosecuted for what they do in the privacy of their bedrooms.
Both rulings were opposed by the court's most conservative members and
prompted angry dissenting opinions. Justice Antonin Scalia warned that his
colleagues had "taken sides in the culture war" by striking down sodomy laws
and opened the door for gay marriages.
O'Connor said life goes on after divisive cases.
"When you work in a small group of that size, you have to get along, and so
you're not going to let some harsh language, some dissenting opinion affect a
personal relationship. You can't do that," O'Connor said.
She said the high court, naturally, must deal with the toughest cases,
"where you can make a good argument on either side."
"I have never heard one member of the court say something insulting about
another, even, even as a kind of joke. It's professional," Breyer said. "We
conduct our discussions in what I would call a very civilized way."
About 20 percent of the court's rulings in the term were decided on 5-4
votes, including the most high profile cases.
O'Connor, the first female justice, played down the significance of that
achievement. At the same time, she said it is better to have a diverse
"I think it helps with nine members, to have some different backgrounds
there. You don't want nine clones," she said.
Both justices expressed reservations about allowing television cameras in
Supreme Court arguments.
On the issue of terrorism, Breyer said courts must balance national
security and liberty rights.
"Nobody wants to harm security and nobody wants, unnecessarily, you see, to
prevent people from doing what they'd like to do," said Breyer, who was put on
the court by President Clinton.
The two said they want to be remembered as doing their best.
"I've always just said that I hope, at the end of the day, it can be said
on my tombstone: Here lies a good judge," O'Connor said.
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