Work For Racial Justice, Sandra Day O'Connor
Work for racial justice, O'Connor tells law school's grads
The Associated Press
May 26, 2003
WASHINGTON + Too
many people think the American criminal and court system is racist, and lawyers
should work to achieve "both the perception and the reality of equal justice,"
Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said Sunday.
"There is sad
evidence all across the nation that a substantial number of our citizens believe
our legal and judicial system is unresponsive to them because of racial bias,
that too often equal justice is but an unrealized slogan," O'Connor
O'Connor also urged about 500 graduates of George Washington
University's law school to volunteer to help people who cannot pay for legal
No paid legal work she did as a lawyer in private practice gave
her more satisfaction, O'Connor told the graduates.
"Use your skills
acquired here to help provide both the perception and the reality of equal
justice under law," O'Connor said.
A moderate conservative named to the
high court by Ronald Reagan, O'Connor has played a crucial tie-breaking role in
cases involving race.
She wrote the court's final word on race-conscious
legislative redistricting, and is expected to be the deciding vote in this
year's marquee case on affirmative action in higher education admissions. The
high court is expected to rule before summer on whether and how race can be a
factor when public universities choose their students.
There was an
awkward reference to that case before O'Connor began her commencement address.
Accepting a faculty award, George Washington law professor Paul Butler noted his
degrees from Harvard and Yale.
"I received those honors because I worked
hard, and also because of affirmative action," Butler said, stressing the last
The students and some faculty applauded, while O'Connor sat
quietly, hands folded in her lap.
Copyright Ā 2003, South Florida