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Justice Sandra Day O'Connor To Retire; FDA Wants Clearer ADHD Labels

Aired July 1, 2005 - 13:35   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, the woman of the hour, many hours, is Sandra Day O'Connor. The first woman ever to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States, is the first Supreme Court justice to retire in 11 years. 24 years after the former Arizona lawmaker and state court judge was tapped by President Reagan to succeed Potter Stewart (ph), O'Connor's own departure gives President Bush an opportunity he's long been waiting and planning for, as have liberals and activists, of course, of every part and persuasion -- party and persuasion, rather.
O'Connor will stay on until her successor is confirmed, though as you may know, the court is in recess for the summer. Apart from the justices themselves, well, few know them or the Supreme Court better than the lawyers, judges, professors, who once did the justice's bidding, their research, sometimes their writing. We're talking about their clerks.

Richard Bierschbach is a professor at New York Cardozo School of Law and former clerk to Sandra Day O'Connor. So, I'm curious, are you happy, sad, mixed emotions? What are you thinking right now?

PROF. RICHARD BIERSCHBACH, CARDOZO SCHOOL OF LAW: Well, this is a very bittersweet moment for me. You know, my year with Justice O'Connor was probably the greatest year that I'll ever have in the legal profession. It was just fantastic. And it's really sad for me to see her go. Now, obviously, no one will stay on the Supreme Court forever. So each year, it became more and more likely that I thought she'd retire. But I'm a little bit surprised, I have to say.

PHILLIPS: Well, you developed quite a wonderful relationship with her. We've been talking a lot about her professionally, intellectually, professionally. But personally, can you give us a sense for what it was like to observe her and watch her every day, as an individual, as a grandmother, as a wife, as a mother, in addition to Supreme Court justice?

BIERSCHBACH: Yes, absolutely. I guess, the first word that comes to mind is it was actually a lot of fun. We really had a very good time in chambers, in terms of talking to Justice O'Connor, not just about the law, but really about everything. I mean, we talked about movies, we talked about books.

We would go on clerk outings several times a year or so. We went kayaking with her, we had lunch with her three or four times a week. And we really got a lot of face-to-face contact, several hours a day, that really kind of drew us into her family. And in fact, she often refers to her clerks as her SOC family.

PHILLIPS: Oh, that's pretty special. Well, we've talked, also, too, about the fact that she was the first female, obviously, on the court. And we talked about how she was discriminated against quite a bit when she was trying to find that first position as a lawyer.


PHILLIPS: But did she ever bring that up? Did she ever talk about that, being a woman, and struggling as a female? Or was that just not an issue?

BIERSCHBACH: It wasn't really an issue that she talked about explicitly. Now, we were all aware of it. Everybody knows this story how she was offered a position as a secretary when she first tried to get a job at a private law firm right out of Stanford. But where it really became evident was in the amount of attention she paid to young girls, and young boys, too, but really little kids and school groups coming through. And she would say to them, you know, you can be whatever you want to be. You want to be a Supreme Court justice, you go be that. And she would answer their answers. And she got a lot of fan mail from little girls, I have to say.

PHILLIPS: Aw. And one of two men who scored higher than Sandra Day O'Connor was Rehnquist, who, as we know, became the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. So this is somebody that did not get to where she is today because individuals were giving her special opportunities. I mean, she earned everything she got.

BIERSCHBACH: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. She's very, very hard worker, a very focused person. This was clear in the way she approached the cases and her work at the court. But it was also even clear in the way she was on the tennis court or the way she was in her aerobics class or her yoga class. Justice O'Connor likes to do a great job, the best she can, at everything, and she never really slowed down.

PHILLIPS: So, I'm going to bring up the female aspect again. There are, of course, many things that the female offers the male intellectually and professionally. Now that she is off the court, what kind of impact is that going to make?

BIERSCHBACH: Well, what kind of impact it's going to make, I guess, of course, remains to be seen. I mean, clearly, historic moment to have the first woman Supreme Court justice retiring today. You know, whether they'll replace her with another woman, that remains to be seen, obviously. But no one ever is going to have to kind of go through the things she went through and really take that first precarious position.

I mean, when she got to the court, people -- many people probably thought, a woman can't be a Supreme Court justice. And so, I think, whoever follows in her footsteps will obviously have an important impact in their own right, but they'll never have to take the lead as she did, in showing that these stereotypes really are just wrong.

PHILLIPS: Richard, did you go to her for advice?

BIERSCHBACH: I sure did. We talked a lot about kind of what the future held. I mean, as I said, she was very close to her law clerks. And so I would say to her, you know, I'm thinking of becoming a law professor, and we would talk about that. Or I think I'll go into private practice for a while. And we would talk about that. And one of the many great things about Justice O'Connor and about being so close to her in chambers is that you could talk to her about this stuff and she really cared.

PHILLIPS: Any moments, any stories, any situations that you remember that maybe we've never heard about or seen, that would sort of add to her character or her personality?

BIERSCHBACH: Oh, I mean, there are any number of these things. She liked to have fun in chambers, as I said. So you know, I mentioned the outings. And sometimes, she would goof off a little bit. I think she kind of once photocopied her hand and put a sign on the door that said, lean here for a pat on the back.

PHILLIPS: There we go. That's what I'm looking for.

BIERSCHBACH: That said a lot about Justice O'Connor. So that's the kind of thing, you know, you don't really see from the outside. But it says a lot about the way she was.

PHILLIPS: Did you bring students in to meet her? Did she ever come speak to your class or anything of that nature?

BIERSCHBACH: I haven't brought my students into meet her, but I did brings into meet her over the years. And I also have asked some of her current clerks to show students around. And she was always very great about that. She made time for everyone. And I mean, there would be times before argument where there would be four or five different guests in there and she would be very gracious with each one, say hi to each one. I mean, she wouldn't spend a lot of time, but she was getting ready for argument, but she would -- was very open and wanted people to learn about the inner workings of the court.

PHILLIPS: Richard Bierschbach, former clerk to Sandra Day O'Connor. You're a lucky young man. You're going to have some great memories to take with you, Richard.

BIERSCHBACH: I already do. Thank you.

PHILLIPS: Thank you.

Well, Justice O'Connor has the reputation as being very strong- willed, as you just heard. And not surprising, some who knew her well tell CNN's Bruce Morton that she had to be tough growing up on a ranch in the middle of nowhere in Arizona.


MARCI HAMILTON, FMR. O'CONNOR CLERK: Because her early life was very hard. Her parents died. Her grandmother died. She was shuttled back and forth between the ranch and relatives in Texas to go to school, and she just became very self-sufficient.

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: She went to Stanford law school in the same class as William Rehnquist. He was first in the class, she third. But no law firm would hire her, so she eventually started her own with her husband and later became a powerful state lawmaker, then judge in Arizona. Ronald Reagan nominated her to be the first woman on the Supreme Court in 1981.

RONALD REAGAN, FMR. PRES. OF THE UNITED STATES: She is truly a person for all seasons, posing those unique qualities of temperament, fairness, intellectual capacity and devotion to the public good.

MORTON: Did the fact that she was a woman matter? She talked to Judy Woodruff in 2003.

JUSTICE SANDRA DAY O'CONNOR, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: We all bring with us to the court or to any task we undertake, our own lifetime of experiences and background. My experiences might be different than some of my colleagues, but at the end of the day, we will all be able to agree on some sensible solution to the problem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think there's any decision that you can say she reached this result because she's a woman.

MORTON: One thing she did do because she was woman, opened a class of yoga and calisthenics for women, not just court employees, in the Supreme Court building.

O'CONNOR: I went to the YWCA and asked to find me an instructor who would be willing to come up here and start a class. So we did.

MORTON: She was tough, survived a 1988 bout with breast cancer with a dose of dry western wit.

O'CONNOR: The worst was public my visibility, frankly. There was constant media coverage. How does she look? When is she going to step down and give the president another vacancy on the court? You know, she looks pale to me. I don't give her six months.

MORTON: She had a reputation for being the swing vote, the deciding vote in lots of cases.

O'CONNOR: I think that's something the media has devised as a means of writing about the court, and I don't think that has a lot of validity.

MORTON: Some criticized her as a fence-sitter, waiting to see which way the wind would blow.

HAMILTON: Those would be the people who have never met her. Anybody who met her knows she makes up her own mind, and she's not at all concerned where anybody else is on the spectrum.

And now for a brief moment of silence.

MORTON: Legacy? She voted against a moment of silence in schools as encouraging religion, but for a city-sponsored nativity scene which she thought did not endorse religion. She held that states could place no undo burden on the right to an abortion. And as the first woman on the court, she made a statement.

O'CONNOR: Let me tell you one reason why I think it's important, and that is for the public generally to see and respect the fact that in positions of power and authority, that women are well-represented, that it is not an all-male governance, as it once was.

MORTON: She saw to that, she did indeed.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.


PHILLIPS: Now we want to take you live to city hall now in Los Angeles, California, where you're watching the swearing-in ceremony of L.A.'s brand new mayor. This is Antonio Villaraigosa, 52.

Antonio Villaraigosa has come forward, of course, and talked a lot about fixing the schools in Los Angeles, uncoiling the gridlock, easing racial tensions, developing more affordable housing, also extending the subway, something that has not been a successful project in Los Angeles. And, of course, he has promised to reinvigorate the office after a bit of an uneven term of James Hahn, the former mayor, who was best known for not being very well known at all.

Let's listen in for a moment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know that Tom would be as thrilled as we all are here today that you are about to become Mayor Villaraigosa.


We are witnessing at this moment a truly historic occasion in the life of our beloved city of Los Angeles, and a truly historic occasion in the lives of all of its residents.

And now, if you will, repeat after me.

I Antonio Villaraigosa...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... do solemnly swear...

VILLARAIGOSA: ... do solemnly swear...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... that I will support the Constitution of the United States...

VILLARAIGOSA: ... that I will support the Constitution of the United States...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... and the Constitution of the state of California....

VILLARAIGOSA: ... and the Constitution of the state of California...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... and the charter of the city of Los Angeles...

VILLARAIGOSA: ... and the charter of the city of Los Angeles...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... and that I will faithfully discharge...

VILLARAIGOSA: .. and that I will faithfully discharge...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... the duties of the office of mayor...

VILLARAIGOSA: ... the duties of the office of mayor...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... according to the best of my ability.

VILLARAIGOSA: ... according to the best of my ability.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations, Mr. Mayor.


PHILLIPS: It's official, live from Los Angeles on the steps of city hall, a kiss from his wife, he's sworn in. The firsts Hispanic mayor elected since Los Angeles' pioneer era, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. The charismatic leader has been involved with politics for a number of years. Now at age 52, he's promised to reinvigorate that office of mayor in Los Angeles, replacing James Hahn. You'll see him now shaking hands with the governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, side by side of course with his wife, Maria Shriver. We're going to take a quick break.

More LIVE FROM right after this.


PHILLIPS: Well, millions of Americans take medications for attention deficit and hyperactivity orders. Many of them are children. And as the FDA announces plans to add new warnings about potentially dangerous side effects to some of these drugs, it's especially worrisome to parents.

CNN's Elizabeth Cohen joins us now to talk about this story, which of course is hitting home for a lot of parents, a lot of kids. But what drugs are we talking about specifically?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now what the FDA is talking about is just Concerta. There's a committee at the FDA that took a look to see if there were any side effects to these drug that needed to go on the label. And what they found is that there have been cases of kids taking the drug and developing suicidal thoughts. Now they're not sure if the drug caused these suicidal thoughts, or if this was just a coincidence. But they were concerned enough that this committee said, it ought to go on the label, that these events had occurred. They also decided that on the label, there should be some talk about psychotic behavior when kids take these drugs, as well as aggression and visual hallucinations.

Again, not saying the drug necessarily caused the problems, but they noticed that children, when they took these drugs did, indeed, have these problems. Now this doesn't mean that the other drugs that children use for ADD don't have these problems. In fact, the FDA is studying whether drugs like Strattera and Adderall, two others ADD medicines, might have some of the same problems.

PHILLIPS: Now the FDA also discussed whether these might be associated with cancer, is that right?

COHEN: Right, and this is something I want to be very careful about, because that sounds -- to say cancer, and that sounds very, very scary. There was one study with just 12 children. That's a tiny study, that seems to indicate that when children took Ritalin-based drugs that there were changes in their chromosomes that might possibly that might possibly make them more at risk for getting cancer. Tiny study, no one's really convinced, including the people who did. These kids didn't have cancer, they just had certain changes in their chromosones.

PHILLIPS: All right, now hearing all this, what if parent's say that's it, forget it, I don't want my kids on any of these drugs. I mean, it's shame we even have our kids on drugs in the first place...

COHEN: Right.

PHILLIPS: But is it OK just to say, forget it, I'm going to go other ways?

COHEN: You have to talk to your doctor. And if you have a child who is taking one of these ADD drugs and they're having success -- they're doing better in school, your life is better, their life is better -- you want to think twice and then three times and then four times about taking them off. And you want to talk to your doctor. Because if they're doing well, you really might want to just leave them where they are.

But, if you want to think about alternatives to drugs or some things that you should do even if your child is taking drugs, here's some advice that we have for you. You want to find the right school for your drug -- for your child, rather. That's very important. Some schools do really well with kids with ADD, other schools don't.

Make sure your child gets enough sleep. There's actually been a study done that shows that some kids who were thought to have ADD just weren't getting enough sleep. Make sure that your child eats a balanced diet. For example, protein in the morning for breakfast is best, so that they don't have a sugar low in the middle of the day. They need to eat less sugar and they need to have no caffeine. If they exercise, there have been studies that show that really helps kids with ADD.

Also, find a coach, find someone who's not a parent who can say to the child, look, when you come home from school, your bookbag goes here and then we do this and then we do that. Try to put some order in the child's life. When it comes from the parent, you have that nag factor.


COHEN: But find a friend, find someone who can help you with that.

PHILLIPS: It's true, coaches are some of your best friends, I remember.

COHEN: Right. It doesn't have to be a professional, you don't need to pay the person.

PHILLIPS: I remember, my mom said, OK, you're hyper, I'm putting you in everything. I'm putting you in band and sports and every kind of activity I can think of.

COHEN: Right, there you go, that's what -- it gets the -- get the energy out.

PHILLIPS: That's right. All right. Elizabeth Cohen, thank you so much.

We're going to take a quick break. Business, right after this.





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