Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor brought her book tour to the Washington law firm of Wiley Rein on Wednesday, shrugging off negative reviews and deflecting a question about her views on same-sex marriage.
"I do not give the court advice on pending cases," O'Connor said when asked how she would vote on the same-sex marriage cases argued last week before the court she left in 2006.
Wiley partner Andrew McBride, who clerked for O'Connor 25 years ago, introduced her to a large crowd in the firm's auditorium and engaged in a dialogue with her before she signed copies of her book Out of Order.
McBride said the book, which aims to humanize the court through anecdotes about the justices and court traditions through history, had gotten rave reviews. But O'Connor interjected that not all reviews were positive -- a clear reference to The New York Times review by reporter Adam Liptak, who panned it as "a disjointed collection of anodyne anecdotes and bar-association bromides."
O'Connor started to defend her book by saying, "It wasn't meant to answer all the questions..." But McBride interrupted, joking that "as your lawyer" he wanted to say that "Adam wanted an intellectual book," whereas O'Connor wrote a book that "my children could read." No more was said about the review.
McBride asked the perennial question about why the court does not let cameras in to record and broadcast the proceedings of the court. "You don't have the votes," O'Connor said. "They're not going to do it." She explained that "I don't think any of them want to be a constant presence" on television and on the Internet, thereby losing "any sense of privacy."
O'Connor related some of the observations she made in her book, describing the "pretty miserable life" of circuit-riding justices in the early 1800s, praising the "most amazing life" of Thurgood Marshall, and dissing James McReynolds, whom she described as a "dreadful man."
She also discussed dating William Rehnquist while at Stanford Law School. "He was fun. We had good times." As for Byron White, O'Connor said, "I thought I was going to die" the first time she experienced his iron-grip handshake.
Then it was time to sign books, which O'Connor said she would do "provided you bring me a glass of wine." Wine was brought and dozens of lawyers queued up with books in hand, good reviews or bad.