By Jessica Shambora
August 12, 2009

“It’s nice to keep your hand in a bit.”

— Sandra Day O’Connor, former Supreme Court Justice, who has been filling in as a substitute federal appellate judge around the country. Since retiring in 2006, O’Connor has heard nearly 80 cases, pitching in when vacancies leave three-member panels understaffed. The appellate court must take an appeal from almost any loser in federal district court–in contrast to the Supreme Court, which hears only 1% of the 10,000 cases petitioned. “I now have occasion to have to apply some of those [Supreme Court] holdings with which I didn’t agree when they were made, but of course now they’re binding,” she told the Wall Street Journal. “It hasn’t caused me to change my mind on a previous dissent. But that’s water over the dam.” –Jessica Shambora

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