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President Jimmy Carter Honored By 'Fly-Fishing Companion' In Phoenix

Jimmy Carter
(Photo by Christina Estes - KJZZ)
President Jimmy Carter receives the 2017 O'Connor Justice Prize in Phoenix.

Two retired Supreme Court Justices shared a table with former President Jimmy Carter at the Arizona Biltmore Friday night.

Carter received the O’Connor Justice Prize, which recognizes leadershipin law initiatives and honors the legacy of Arizona native Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman to serve on the United States Supreme Court.

President Carter described Justice O’Connor as one of his great heroes and one of his favorite fly-fishing companions. He called O’Connor’s appointment to the Supreme Court the best decision President Ronald Reagan made. 

When he was elected in 1976, Carter said, it wasn’t easy to find women to fill federal spots because they weren’t deans of law schools and heads of law firms, the typical recruiting grounds for justices. 

“I had to reach down sometimes in the lower levels of those organizations to find justices to appoint to district court and the court of appeals and so forth,” he said.  “But, by the time I went out of office after just four years I had appointed more women to be federal judges than all my predecessors combined and for that I’m very grateful.”

The 92-year former president old took no questions from reporters, but did address discrimination against women during a fireside chat with Ana Palacio, the 2016 recipient of the O’Connor Justice Prize

Carter thinks there are two main reasons it exists: what he says is the misinterpretation of Holy Scriptures and traditional societal advantages enjoyed by men.

“Even though those who are enlightened and want to change laws, they find that they have to admit they benefit from the discrimination against women because they get the best jobs, they get the best pay, they get the best status in the military and so forth,” he said. 

Justice O’Connor did not speak during the event, but her former colleague, Justice John Paul Stevens did. He expressed disappointment that the current court overruled an opinion he and O’Connor shared which banned corporations and labor unions from spending as much as they want on campaign ads and other political tools. 

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been modified to correct President Jimmy Carter's age.

As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.