When the U.S. Supreme Court issues a 5-4 decision, it means, for practical purposes, they haven't actually decided anything to help lawyers figure out how similar cases will proceed in the future. Sandra Day O'Connor put the "5" in "5-4" so many times during her 23 years on the Court that for a time it seemed she was single-handily causing an explosion of litigation, re-litigation, and rogue appellate court decisions.
None of her 5-4 votes had a worse outcome than her vote in 2000 on Bush v Gore. Now, after watching her judicial legacy (such as it is) get destroyed by Republican-partisan Sam Alito, she admits maybe she made the wrong call in putting W. in the White House:
Looking back, O'Connor said, she isn't sure the high court should have taken the case.
"It took the case and decided it at a time when it was still a big election issue," O'Connor said during a talk Friday with the Tribune editorial board. "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."
No kidding. One can only wish that somewhere, someone in the U.S. might have said this back in December 2000. Oh, wait.