Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor says she’s having some second thoughts about whether the Supreme Court even should have taken up the most controversial case of her tenure – and one of the most controversial Supreme Court decisions in history: the one that gave the 2000 presidential election to George W. Bush.

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor

O’Connor was part of the 5-4 majority in Bush v. Gore, which overturned a decision of the Florida Supreme Court ordering a statewide recount.

Last week, O’Connor discussed the case with the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board.   According to the Tribune, O’Connor said the Supreme Court

“took the case and decided it at a time when it was still a big election issue … Maybe the court should have said, ‘We’re not going to take it, goodbye.'”

The case, she said, “stirred up the public” and “gave the court a less-than-perfect reputation.”

“Obviously the court did reach a decision and thought it had to reach a decision,” she said. “It turned out the election authorities in Florida hadn’t done a real good job there and kind of messed it up. And probably the Supreme Court added to the problem at the end of the day.”

In fact, Bush v. Gore was a classic example of judicial overreach.  The Supreme Court never should have granted review of the case, as it was a matter of state law that typically would be – and should have been – left to the state Supreme Court.  This overreach has only gotten worse since O’Connor resigned and President Bush replaced her with Samuel Alito.

As we document in this report over and over the Supreme Court’s conservative activist majority forces the Court to:

● Take cases it doesn’t need to hear.
● Answer legal questions it was not actually asked.
● Make up new laws out of thin air.

Bush v. Gore was among the most prominent examples of this ugly era.  Perhaps Justice O’Connor’s second thoughts will help bring this era to an end.

UPDATE, MAY 1: Talking Points Memo asks if Justice O’Connor’s vote in Bush v. Gore helped undo her own legacy.