O’Connor, J.

Sisters in Law, by Linda Hirshman, has been on my shelf for a couple of years, constantly pestering me to sit down on a snowy weekend and read of legends. My own sister, a professional musician, recommended it when she was toying with idea of turning it into a rock opera, along the lines of what Lin-Manuel Miranda did with Chernow’s Hamilton. (You think the first Treasury Secretary is a ripe story for the Broadway stage? Imagine the tale of two absolute judicial rock stars, one from the right and the other from the left. I would pony up a fair chunk of change to see that.)

My phone buzzed during a mediation this morning, with news that Sandra Day O’Connor had passed at 93. A heck of a life– a life well lived, by any metric– come to an end along with a bunch of other other 90+ contemporaries lately, including Henry Kissinger and the amazing Rosalynn Carter.

This isn’t much of an obit. If you seek that, check out the Times, the Post, the other Times, the other Post, the other other Times… they’re far more qualified to provide retrospectives. I’m simply another lawyer who is continually awed by her career, her kindness, her skill, and even though I come from the other side of the aisle and the Federalist Society guest list, her sense of reason. Yes, she was a Reagan appointee and a Republican, but she came from a generation of politically astute lawyers who recognized the dangers of politics on the bench.

With the possible exception of Robert H. Jackson (author of Mullane, just a couple of years after his stint as Nuremberg war crimes chief prosecutor), Justice O’Connor has had more impact on my practice than any other jurist at any level. Her opinion in Volkswagenwerk AG v. Schlunk is seminal in my practice, and it provides the foundation of Hague Service Convention work like Gideon and Miranda underpin criminal defense. No exaggeration there. Pertinent:

“The present Convention shall apply in all cases, in civil or commercial matters, where there is occasion to transmit a judicial or extrajudicial document for service abroad.” (…) This language is mandatory (…)


Those who eschew its procedures risk discovering that the forum’s internal law required transmittal of documents for service abroad, and that the Convention therefore provided the exclusive means of valid service.

I give you the bedrock on which my practice rests.

Thanks, Madam Justice.