O'Connor and the 5-4 decision

People for the American Way offers a list of 5-4 decisions that could have gone the other way if a more reliably conservative justice were sitting in O'Connor's seat.

Published July 1, 2005 5:01PM (EDT)

We've already noted the critical role Sandra Day O'Connor has played as a Supreme Court swing voter over the past 24 years. Here's more on that front -- People for the American Way's list and description of notable 5-4 Supreme Court decisions that could have gone the other way if a more conservative justice were sitting in O'Connor's seat:

  • Grutter vs. Bollinger (2003) affirmed the right of state colleges and universities to use affirmative action in their admissions policies to increase educational opportunities for minorities and promote racial diversity on campus;
  • Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation vs. EPA (2004) said the Environmental Protection Agency could step in and take action to reduce air pollution under the Clean Air Act when a state conservation agency fails to act;
  • Rush Prudential HMO, Inc. vs. Moran (2002) upheld state laws giving people the right to a second doctor's opinion if their HMOs tried to deny them treatment;
  • Hunt vs. Cromartie (2001) affirmed the right of state legislators to take race into account to secure minority voting rights in redistricting;
  • Tennessee vs. Lane (2004) upheld the constitutionality of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and required that courtrooms be physically accessible to the disabled;
  • Hibbs vs. Winn (2004) subjected discriminatory and unconstitutional state tax laws to review by the federal judiciary;
  • Zadvydas vs. Davis (2001) told the government it could not indefinitely detain an immigrant who was under final order of removal even if no other country would accept that person;
  • Brentwood Academy vs. Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (2001) affirmed that civil rights laws apply to associations regulating interscholastic sports;
  • Lee vs. Weisman (1992) continued the tradition of government neutrality toward religion, finding that government-sponsored prayer is unacceptable at graduations and other public school events;
  • Brown vs. Legal Foundation of Washington (2003) maintained a key source of funding for legal assistance for the poor;
  • Morse vs. Republican Party of Virginia (1996) said key anti-discrimination provisions of the Voting Rights Act apply to political conventions that choose party candidates;
  • Federal Election Commission vs. Colorado Republican Federal Campaign Committee (2001) upheld laws that limit political party expenditures that are coordinated with a candidate and seek to evade campaign contribution limits;
  • McConnell vs. Federal Election Commission (2003) upheld most of the landmark McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, including its ban on political parties' use of unlimited soft-money contributions;
  • Stenberg vs. Carhart (2000) overturned a state ban on so-called partial-birth abortion; and
  • McCreary County vs. ACLU of Kentucky (2005) upheld the principle of government neutrality toward religion and ruled unconstitutional Ten Commandments displays in several courthouses.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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