By Justice Sandra Day O'Connor

Remarks on the Uniform Law Commission

January 2015

Type: Speech
Location: The Uniform Law Commission

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Sandra Day O'Connor
The uniform law commission plays a very special role in the laws of this country. As all of you know, we have a national government, we have a National Constitution. But what it did was to bring together the separate states. And most Americans aren't totally unaware of how complex our legal system is. And the reason it has worked fairly well, I think, is due in large measure to the existence and work of the uniform law commission. It's interesting that at least four members of the Supreme Court have given some time to serve on the uniform state law commission. And I think the members of the Supreme Court are keenly aware of the role play by having uniform state laws in the areas in which otherwise there'd be total conflict. I was privileged to be a state senator in Arizona, from 1969 to 1975. And for part of that time, I was the senate majority leader. And during my time of service in the Arizona State Senate, we passed more than a dozen of the uniform law Commission Act. And I was very much aware of the work of the Commission. Without it, I don't think my state could have or would have enacted the laws dealing with commercial transactions, issues affecting child custody and support of the handling of trusts and estates. And it could be very difficult, duplicative and costly, without the existence of uniform acts passed by the various state. Now, at the time I lived in Arizona, I had a former law school classmate who also lived in Arizona. His name was William Rehnquist, who eventually became Chief Justice of the United States. And from 1963 to 69. Bill Rehnquist was on the uniform law commission. He helped write a history of the Commission. And to describe what it meant him to be a commissioner, he said, my quote, my most vivid recollection of the annual meetings, is the high quality of the floor debate about a pending proposed uniform law. I've seen many deliberative body before nonsense, but in none where the discussions of the same I quality, we had the privilege of working in a group of diverse and stimulating members of the legal profession in a very useful and productive effort to benefit the legal system. Such work is its own reward.

I think the uniform law Commission has functioned well, and it's been blessed by having some very knowledgeable and skilled lawyer members in the various states who've been able to think through the problems and propose decent methods of making laws uniform, to cover things that each state cares about. And I think the uniform law Commission's throughout the years have managed to attract very intelligent members, members who have cared deeply about making it function and developing laws that enabled our country to operate effectively in the areas of trade and commerce. It's been very important to all of us. Uniform laws, commissioners have never been paid for the work they do on behalf that commission, and they spend countless hours not just drafting uniform laws, but working in their home states to get those uniform acts adopted by the state legislatures. And it's it's really commendable that the uniform law commissioners are so generous in giving them their time and talent to advance the general welfare of our country through this mechanism of uniform state laws in areas that otherwise would be totally chaotic. The work of the uniform law commission is absolutely critical to the success of our nation, and I command the work of the commission