New Book on Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor Discussed by Media Fellow Joan Biskupic

Tuesday, November 1, 2005

Author and journalist Joan Biskupic, a Hoover media fellow, spoke about her new book Sandra Day O'Connor: How the First Woman on the Supreme Court Became Its Most Influential Justice (HarperCollins, 2005) at a media fellows' seminar on October 26. Biskupic said the seed for the book was first planted in 1993.

At that time Biskupic had coauthored a series of stories for the Washington Post based on the papers of Justice Thurgood Marshall, which revealed the behind-the-scenes negotiations of justices on the cases they decided. During her research, Biskupic said, she came across a note from Justice William Brennan to Marshall saying that O'Connor had forced his hand on a particular case by "threatening to lead the revolution." From this and her other research, Biskupic said she began to view O'Connor as a politician on the Court. "She came to the Court knowing how to count votes," Biskupic said.

The question of her competency to serve as a Supreme Court justice arose when O'Connor was nominated to the court, Biskupic said. O'Connor dealt with these questions, Biskupic said, by taking the upper hand when she met with people, such as on her courtesy calls to senators. "She wisely held off a lot of criticism by defining herself first."

Although O'Connor refused to be interviewed, Biskupic said, she did not try to stop her from writing the book. She was able to interview the other justices, Biskupic said, except Justice David Souter, who declined to be interviewed.

Biskupic began covering the Supreme Court in 1989. Before joining USA Today in June 2000, she was the Supreme Court reporter for the Washington Post from 1992 to 2000 and legal affairs writer for Congressional Quarterly from 1989 to 1992. Biskupic won the Everett Dirksen Award for Distinguished Reporting on Congress for her coverage of the Clarence Thomas hearings.

The William C. and Barbara H. Edwards Media Fellows Program allows print and broadcast media professionals to spend time in residence at the Hoover Institution. Media fellows have the opportunity to exchange information and perspectives with Hoover scholars through seminars and informal meetings and with the Hoover and Stanford communities in public lectures. As fellows, they have the full range of research tools Hoover offers available to them. More than 100 of the nation's top journalists have visited the Hoover Institution recently and interacted with Hoover fellows on key public policy issues, including

  • Markos Kounalakis, Washington Monthly (in residence October 17–22)
  • Lou Cannon, freelance (October 17–22)
  • David Alpern, Newsweek (October 24–28)
  • Pamela Constable, Washington Post (October 24–28)