Sandra Day O'Connor: Back Off Criticism Of Justice Roberts

Nathan Francis

Sandra Day O'Connor has a message to critics of Chief Justice John Roberts and his decision to uphold the health care reform act--back off.

The former Supreme Court Justice met before a Senate panel this week, calling criticism of Roberts' decision "unfortunate." Sandra Day O'Connor, who appears on CBS's Face the Nation this Sunday, took the opportunity to stand up to conservatives' criticism of John Roberts, the Christian Science Monitor reported.

The 82-year-old Justice said of the criticism: "It's unfortunate because I think comments like that demonstrate only too well a lack of understanding some of our citizens have about the role of the judicial branch." Sandra Day O'Connor went on to emphasize to the Senate Panel that federal judges owe their only allegiance to the Constitution, the Associated Press reported.

But just as she called out those against Roberts, Sandra Day O'Connor also took aim at the president as well. She said Pres. Obama's decision to criticize justices during his 2010 State of the Union address were "unusual," the Christian Science Monitor reported. Obama warned the Supreme Court that any action to strike down the health-care reform act would be unnecessary judicial activism.

"If there is a pending decision at the Supreme Court and the president were to express views along those lines … it would be unusual," Justice O'Connor said.

Her appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee was ostensibly to discuss her nationwide project, iCivics, which promotes greater understanding of how the U.S. government and courts work among students. But Sandra Day O'Connor ended up being sucked in to the debate over the court case upholding "ObamaCare."

Responding to a comment from committee chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) about how "a member of the court was labeled a traitor," O'Connor replied:

"It is unfortunate because comments like that demonstrate a lack of understanding about the role of the judicial branch."

Senators also tried to push Sandra Day O'Connor on possibly televising Supreme Court proceedings, but she didn't take the bait.

"Would you like me to speak on it?" O'Connor answered Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).

"Only if you speak in favor of it," Grassley replied.

"Then I'll keep my mouth shut," Sandra Day O'Connor replied with a laugh.