- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 5, 2003

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor received the city’s Liberty Medal on the Fourth of July for actions that represent the founding principles of the United States.

She also joined Gov. Edward G. Rendell, Richard Dreyfuss, musician Wynton Marsalis and others to help open the National Constitution Center, a new $185 million museum, amid tight security.

Nearby, hundreds of protesters, including abortion foes and peace activists, held signs proclaiming their beliefs.

The museum ceremony was marred at the end, when a heavy frame surrounding a mural fell onto the dais as several people on stage pulled ribbons to unveil the artwork.

The center’s president, Joseph Torsella, was struck on the head but was able to walk to an ambulance. He was being evaluated at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. A woman was also taken to a hospital but appeared to be OK, Mr. Rendell said.

Mayor John Street was hit on the shoulder and Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, was struck on the arm, but both appeared to be fine. Justice O’Connor was not hurt.

Before the accident, Justice O’Connor said the duty to uphold the Constitution is shared by citizens, lawmakers, the president, and state and federal judges alike.

“I find the system quite comforting,” she told the crowd outside the museum, about three blocks from Independence Hall, where the document was drafted in 1787.

“By spreading the responsibility to uphold the Constitution among so many, the framers enlisted a legion of defenders for their new charter,” Justice O’Connor said.

Justice O’Connor, the first woman on the U.S. Supreme Court and a frequent swing vote, write the recent landmark 5-4 ruling that upheld the use of race in college admissions and the 7-2 decision that overturned a death-penalty sentence because of ineffective counsel.

Inside the Constitution Center, a circular gallery has on display items including the first public printings of the Constitution and the inkwell that Abraham Lincoln used to sign the Emancipation Proclamation.

Exhibits also recall the many controversies that have tested the Constitution in its history, such as tickets to President Andrew Johnson’s 1868 impeachment trial, one of Palm Beach County’s infamous butterfly ballots from the 2000 presidential election and a lock pick used during the Watergate burglary.

Justice O’Connor, 73, was a member of the Arizona Court of Appeals before President Reagan appointed her to the high court in 1981.

The Liberty Medal was established in 1988 to honor people or organizations whose actions represent the founding principles of the United States. Last year’s medal went to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell for his leadership in the war on terrorism and his concern for human rights.

Past recipients include President Carter, Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, King Hussein of Jordan, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

The Liberty Medal is administered by Greater Philadelphia First, a regional business and civic organization, and comes with a $100,000 prize.

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