Sandra Day O'Connor Weighs In on Immigration, the Supreme Court and Civics Ed

O'CONNOR: Yes. I mean, it was just not good. And the minute we got a second woman, that stopped. And we were all, I like to say, fungible justices.

STEPHANOPOULOS:Is there ... kind of a geometric progression? Three over two?

O'CONNOR: Well, I don't know, but it's a third. That's a lot better than what it was, 20-some percent. Yeah, that's good.

STEPHANOPOULOS: It's ... it could be a huge change.

O'CONNOR: Yes.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, I was reading an article about ... what you were going through when you first started in the law. And they were comparing it to what Justice Sotomayor, perhaps what Elena Kagan will go through. And the times are so different. You spent five years working in the home, raising your family.

O'CONNOR: I did at one point, because my babysitter moved to California, and that was a disaster. And I didn't have a substitute with three little kids. And it's hard to --

STEPHANOPOULOS: And if you took five years --

O'CONNOR: -- solve that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: -- out of it the work force, the ... legal work force today, do you, could you imagine you could make it to the court?

O'CONNOR: Well, I didn't know if I could even get another job as a lawyer when I took the five years. It was that much of a concern. I didn't have a choice. But I was afraid, I had so much trouble getting work in the first place, I thought with five years off, it would be much more difficult.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What advice do you have for Elena Kagan now as she heads into all this?

O'CONNOR: Oh, none. She doesn't need advice. But just, she'll have to go through the process of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings. And I don't care who you are, it's a difficult, unpleasant experience for the nominee. It's just something you have to go through.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Unpleasant even when you're confirmed?

O'CONNOR: Well, it's pleasant afterwards but (LAUGHTER) not during the process. It's dreadful. I think I'd still be there except Sen. Strom Thurmond was chair when I went through. And his wife had a tea for me in the late afternoon of the third day and invited everybody who was anybody to the tea so they decided to end the questioning. I probably would still be there if they hadn't.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm not sure about that. But what is the most important quality that a new justice can bring to that Court? Going into for the first time, meeting their colleagues, dealing with the cases, what's the ... personal quality ... you ended up relying on most, and you think is most important of the court?

O'CONNOR: It's a learning experience. ... There is no how-to-do-it manual for a new Supreme Court justice, nothing. And it's slow, and it has customs and practices, and nobody comes in and is told what they all are. You learn by experience. So I'd say move slowly and carefully, do your homework, read everything you can, get acquainted and just do the best you can. It's hard. It's a hard learning curve.

STEPHANOPOULOS: There's been a lot of talk about, you know, what the court needs is someone who can work the other members of the court --

O'CONNOR: No.

STEPHANOPOULOS: -- and I was listening to you out there --

O'CONNOR: No.

STEPHANOPOULOS: --so, that's just not the way it works?

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