Not five minutes ago, we asked ourselves, "What sort of surprise can we expect on the Friday before this three-day weekend?" Turns out, it's a big one: Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor is about to announce her retirement.
Although media attention has focused mostly on the prospect that Chief Justice William Rehnquist would step down this summer -- and he still could -- an O'Connor resignation is potentially much more significant. Rehnquist, a reliable conservative vote, would be replaced by another reliable conservative vote, meaning that the balance on the court would not be changed much by his resignation alone. O'Connor's departure would create a much different dynamic: Because she sometimes sides with the liberal members of the court -- and George W. Bush is unlikely to nominate a replacement who'd do that -- O'Connor's retirement could lead to a major shift in the court's views on any number of issues, especially abortion rights.
"Justice OConnor has been the most important figure on the court in recent years, People for the American Way President Ralph G. Neas says in a statement that was just released. "Her replacement will have a monumental impact on the lives and freedoms of Americans for decades to come."