O'Connor to honor last Princetonian to serve on Supreme Court Nov. 17


Princeton NJ -- Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor is scheduled to deliver the first John Marshall Harlan '20 Lecture in Constitutional Adjudication, honoring the last Princetonian to serve on the high court, at 8 p.m. Monday, Nov. 17, in Richardson Auditorium, Alexander Hall.

"Justice Harlan is one of the most highly regarded justices, among lawyers and other judges, to serve on the court in the 20th century," said Christopher Eisgruber, director of the Program in Law and Public Affairs, which is sponsoring the event. "Harlan was sometimes referred to as the 'conservative conscience' of the Warren Court, but he is respected by both liberals and conservatives for his dedication to constitutional principle and his commitment to legal craftsmanship."

Eisgruber said the program wanted to honor Harlan to exemplify Princeton's connections to the law, even though the University has no law school.

An offer was extended to O'Connor "both because she admires Justice Harlan and because many people regard her as an inheritor of Harlan's legacy on the court," he said. "Justice O'Connor is a moderate conservative whose jurisprudence emphasizes the importance of reasoned judgment. Like Justice Harlan before her, she has stood for the values of liberty, federalism and judicial restraint, and she has avoided ideological extremism."

Harlan was the eighth Princetonian to serve as a Supreme Court justice. After graduating with honors from Princeton in 1920, he was a Rhodes Scholar and later earned a law degree from New York Law School. He served as special assistant attorney general of New York state and also worked in private practice before being appointed to the Supreme Court by President Eisenhower in 1955. He served on the court until his death in 1971 and was known as a strong advocate of states' rights and a defender of individual rights.

O'Connor joined the Supreme Court in 1981, appointed by President Reagan after serving as a judge on the Arizona Court of Appeals and the Maricopa County Superior Court. She also was an Arizona state senator and the state's assistant attorney general. O'Connor earned bachelor's and law degrees from Stanford University.

The lecture bearing Harlan's name is intended to become an annual event. Further details on O'Connor's talk will be available closer to the event's date.


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