The Truth-O-Meter Says:

On Sandra Day O'Connor: "I think one reason she was a good judge is she had no judicial experience" before she joined the Supreme Court.

Harry Reid on Tuesday, May 11th, 2010 in a speech on the Senate floor

Reid claims O'Connor had no previous judicial experience

In a recent Senate floor speech, Democratic Leader Harry Reid likened Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan to another woman who sat on the court, Sandra Day O'Connor.

"One of my favorite Supreme Court Justices in recent years has been Sandra Day O’Connor, not because she’s a Republican, but because she was a good judge. I think one reason she was a good judge is she had no judicial experience," Reid said on May 11, 2010.

He pointed out that O'Connor served in the Arizona state legislature, giving her a different perspective on legal matters.

"I think Solicitor General Kagan will bring a lot of those same views ... to the bench. That is, she has fresh ideas, she's been out in the real world recently," Reid said.

Indeed, before taking a role in Obama's administration, Kagan was the dean of Harvard Law School, a law professor and an advisor to former President Bill Clinton. Prior to that, she served as a clerk for Judge Abner Mikva of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and Justice Thurgood Marshall of the U.S. Supreme Court. But Kagan has never been a judge, something her critics are quick to point out.

O'Connor, who retired from the court 2005, also had a variety of jobs, serving as Deputy County Attorney of San Mateo County, California, and as an Arizona state senator.

But unlike Kagan, O'Connor had been a judge.

In 1975, O'Connor was elected a judge of the Maricopa County Superior Court, where she served until 1979, when she was appointed to the Arizona Court of Appeals, according to her biography on the U.S. Supreme Court Web site. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan nominated O'Connor to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court.

We asked Reid's spokesman, Jim Manley, if we were missing something, and he wrote that Reid had simply misspoken.

So, O'Connor had six years of judicial experience before she was nominated for a seat on the highest court. We find Reid's claim to be False.

About this statement:

Published: Wednesday, May 12th, 2010 at 11:02 a.m.

Subjects: Job Accomplishments, Kagan Nomination, Supreme Court


C-SPAN, Senate session, May 11, 2010

The Department of Justice, Meet the Solicitor General, accessed May 11, 2010
The Supreme Court of the United States, Biographies of Current Justices of the Supreme Court, accessed May 11, 2010
E-mail correspondence, Jim Manley, spokesman for Sen. Harry Reid, May 11, 2010


Written by: Catharine Richert
Researched by: Catharine Richert
Edited by: Bill Adair

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