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The Constitutional Jurisprudence of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor: A Refusal to 'Foreclose the Unanticipated'

29 Pages Posted: 11 Apr 2006 Last revised: 7 Nov 2010

Wilson Ray Huhn

Duquesne University - School of Law

Date Written: November 5, 2010


This article describes and evaluates Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's constitutional jurisprudence. Part I of the article covers an early period on the Court when Justice O'Connor seemed principally concerned with questions of jurisdiction and appellate process, during which she was frequently inclined to dispose of cases on technical or procedural grounds. Part II discusses Justice O'Connor's attention to detail and consideration of factual context and her tendency to adjust the traditional standards of review in light of the circumstances of the case. Part III outlines Justice O'Connor's respect for precedent and commitment to the principle of stare decisis particularly as it relates to her refusal to overrule the case of Roe v. Wade. Part IV describes how her judicial philosophy evolved during her tenure on the Court in a number of areas, including abortion and the right to privacy, gay rights, affirmative action, the separation of church and state, procedural due process and the war on terror, federalism and civil rights. In the end, Justice O'Connor achieved a deep understanding and formulated a nuanced articulation of the fundamental American values embodied by the Constitution.

Keywords: Constitutional Law, Equal Protection, Due Process, Federalism, Separation of Church and State

JEL Classification: K19

Suggested Citation

Huhn, Wilson Ray, The Constitutional Jurisprudence of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor: A Refusal to 'Foreclose the Unanticipated' (November 5, 2010). AKRON LAW REVIEW, Vol. 39, pp. 373-415, 2006; University of Akron Legal Studies Research Paper No. 06-03. Available at SSRN:

Wilson Ray Huhn (Contact Author)

Duquesne University - School of Law ( email )

600 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15282
United States

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