Justice Sandra Day O'Connor calls for judicial independence

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor addresses a packed house. (Photos by Marcus Donner)

Former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor called for an end to judicial elections at a conference at Seattle University School of Law that sparked conversation about the critical issue of how judges are chosen.

More than 400 judges, lawmakers, attorneys and interested citizens attended State Judicial Independence - A National Concern on Monday, Sept. 14. Distinguished experts spoke on panels throughout the day.

O'Connor, the first woman appointed to the United States Supreme Court, says judicial independence is one of the most important issues of the day. Since retiring from the bench in 2006, she has worked tirelessly to promote the idea of judicial independence and more civics education in public schools.

She recommends steering away for elections, which she says have become "nasty, expensive and destructive" and instead have appointed judges who must face retention elections.

Before taking the stage, Justice O'Connor had lunch with a group of women student leaders from the law school. She asked about their backgrounds and goals, and told them to do something that matters.

Justice with student

Student Victoria Slade gets an autograph from Justice O'Connor.

"Don't work for the money," she said. "Work for the good you can do."

Professor Heidi Bond, who was a clerk for Justice O'Connor enjoyed a warm reunion with her former boss, calling her "an incredible person."

Justice O'Connor praised the law school.

"This is quite a law school," she said. "I think you've done something right by attracting so many good students. I really did enjoy meeting the students. They were an impressive group, to say the least."

Read more about the conference or view more photos from the conferenceWatch video from conference sessions.