Sandra Day O'Connor

The Honorable
Sandra Day O'Connor
23rd Chancellor of the College of William and Mary
In office
October 4, 2005  February 3, 2012
President Gene Nichol
Preceded by Henry Kissinger
Succeeded by Robert Gates
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
In office
September 25, 1981  January 31, 2006
Nominated by Ronald Reagan
Preceded by Potter Stewart
Succeeded by Samuel Alito
Judge of the Arizona Court of Appeals for Division One
In office
December 1979  September 25, 1981
Nominated by Bruce Babbitt
Preceded by Mary Schroeder
Succeeded by Sarah D. Grant[1]
Member of the Arizona Senate
from the 24th district
In office
January 8, 1973  January 13, 1975
Preceded by Howard S. Baldwin
Succeeded by John Pritzlaff
Member of the Arizona Senate
from the 20th district
In office
January 11, 1971  January 8, 1973
Preceded by Constituency established
Succeeded by Bess Stinson
Member of the Arizona Senate
from the 8-E district
In office
October 30, 1969  January 11, 1971
Preceded by Isabel Burgess
Succeeded by Constituency abolished
Personal details
Born Sandra Day
(1930-03-26) March 26, 1930
El Paso, Texas, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) John O'Connor (1952–2009) (his death)
Children 3
Alma mater Stanford University
Religion Episcopalianism

Sandra Day O'Connor (born March 26, 1930) is a retired associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, serving from her appointment in 1981 by Ronald Reagan until her retirement in 2006. She was the first woman to be appointed to the Court.[2]

Prior to O'Connor's appointment to the Court, she was an elected official and judge in Arizona serving as the first female Majority Leader in the United States as the Republican leader in the Arizona Senate.[3] On July 1, 2005, she announced her intention to retire effective upon the confirmation of a successor.[4] Samuel Alito was nominated to take her seat in October 2005, and joined the Court on January 31, 2006.

Considered a federalist and a Moderate Republican, O'Connor tended to approach each case narrowly without arguing for sweeping precedents. She most frequently sided with the court's conservative bloc, although in the latter years of her tenure, she was regarded as having the swing opinion in many cases. Her unanimous confirmation by the Senate in 1981[5] was supported by most conservatives, led by Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, and liberals, including Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy and women's rights groups like the National Organization for Women.

O'Connor was Chancellor of The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, and served on the board of trustees of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She also served on the Board of Trustees for Colonial Williamsburg. Several publications have named O'Connor among the most powerful women in the world.[6][7] On August 12, 2009, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor of the United States, by President Barack Obama.

As the first woman to be appointed a U.S. Supreme Court Justice she paved the way for many other women. She was a Republican and considered a moderate conservative who served for twenty-four years. In 2006 Arizona State University named its law school after the distinguished Supreme Court Justice.

Early life and education

She was born in El Paso, Texas, the daughter of Harry Alfred Day, a rancher, and Ada Mae (Wilkey).[8] Her sister was Ann Day, who served in the Arizona Legislature.[9] She grew up on a cattle ranch near Duncan, Arizona where she had to change automobile flat tires herself in dangerous environments.[10] She later wrote a book with her brother, H. Alan Day, Lazy B : Growing up on a Cattle Ranch in the American West (2002), about her childhood experiences on the ranch. For most of her early schooling, O'Connor lived in El Paso with her maternal grandmother, and attended school at the Radford School for Girls, a private school. She graduated sixth in her class at Austin High School in El Paso in 1946.[11] She attended Stanford University, where she received her B.A. in economics in 1950. She continued at the Stanford Law School for her LL.B.. There, she served on the Stanford Law Review with its presiding editor in chief, future Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who was the class valedictorian,[12] and whom she briefly dated during law school.[13] She has stated that she graduated third in her law school class,[14] although Stanford's official position is that the law school did not rank students in 1952.[15]

On December 20, 1952, six months after graduating from law school, she married John Jay O'Connor III. They had three sons: Scott, Brian, and Jay. Her husband suffered from Alzheimer's disease for nearly twenty years until his death in 2009,[16] and she has become involved in raising awareness of the disease.

After graduation from law school, at least forty law firms refused to interview her for a position as an attorney because she was a woman.[17] She eventually found employment as a deputy county attorney in San Mateo, California, after she offered to work for no salary and without an office, sharing space with a secretary.[17]

When her husband was drafted, she decided to pick up and leave with him to work in Germany as a civilian attorney for the Army's Quartermaster Corps. [18] They remained there for three years before returning to the states, where they settled in Maricopa County, Ariz. to begin their family.

She volunteered in various political organizations, like the Maricopa County Young Republicans, and served on the presidential campaign for Arizona Senator Barry M. Goldwater.[19]

O'Connor served as Assistant Attorney General of Arizona from 1965 to 1969 until she was appointed to fill a vacancy in the Arizona State Senate. She was elected to the State Senate in 1973 and became the first woman to serve as its Majority Leader.[20] In 1974 she was elected to the Maricopa County Superior Court[21] serving from 1975 to 1979 when she was elevated to the Arizona State Court of Appeals. She served on the Court of Appeals-Division One until 1981 when she was appointed to the Supreme Court.[22]

Supreme Court career


Supreme Court Justice-nominee Sandra Day O'Connor talks with President Ronald Reagan outside the White House, July 15, 1981.

On July 7, 1981, Reagan – who had pledged during his 1980 presidential campaign to appoint the first woman to the Court[23] – announced he would nominate O'Connor as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, to replace the retiring Potter Stewart.[24] O'Connor received notification from President Reagan of her nomination on the day prior to the announcement and did not know that she was a finalist for the position.[17] Reagan formally nominated O'Connor on August 19, 1981.[25]

O'Connor being sworn in by Chief Justice Warren Burger

Pro-life and religious groups opposed O'Connor's nomination because they suspected, correctly, she would not be willing to overturn Roe v Wade.[26] U.S. Senate Republicans, including Don Nickles of Oklahoma, Steve Symms of Idaho, and Jesse Helms of North Carolina called the White House to express their discontent over the nomination; Nickles said he and "other profamily Republican senators would not support" O'Connor.[26] Helms, Nickles, and Symms nevertheless voted for the nomination.

Conservative activists such as the Reverend Jerry Falwell, Howard Phillips, and Peter Gemma, also spoke out against the nomination. Gemma called the nomination "a direct contradiction of the Republican platform to everything that candidate Reagan said and even President Reagan has said in regard to social issues."[27] Gemma, the executive director of the National Pro-Life Political Action Committee, had sought to delay O'Connor's confirmation by challenging her record, including support for the Equal Rights Amendment.[28]

O'Connor refused to telegraph her views on abortion, and she was careful not to leave the impression that she supported abortion rights.[29] O'Connor told Reagan she did not remember whether she had supported the view of repealing Arizona's law banning abortion.[30] However, she had cast a preliminary vote in the Arizona State Senate in 1970 in favor of a bill to repeal the state's criminal-abortion statute.[31] In 1974, O'Connor had opined against a measure to prohibit abortions in some Arizona hospitals.[31]

Reagan wrote in his diary on July 6, 1981: "Called Judge O'Connor and told her she was my nominee for supreme court. Already the flak is starting and from my own supporters. Right to Life people say she is pro abortion. She says abortion is personally repugnant to her. I think she'll make a good justice."[32] On September 21, O'Connor was confirmed by the U.S. Senate with a vote of 99–0;[24] Senator Max Baucus of Montana was absent from the vote, and sent O'Connor a copy of A River Runs Through It by way of apology.[33] In her first year on the Court she received over 60,000 letters from the public, more than any other justice in history.

Response to being first woman on the Supreme Court

In response to an editorial in The New York Times which mentioned the "nine old men" of the Court, the self-styled FWOTSC (First Woman On The Supreme Court) sent a pithy letter to the editor:

I noticed the following ....:
Is no Washington name exempt from shorthand? One, maybe. The Chief Magistrate responsible for executing the laws is sometimes called the POTUS [President of the United States].
The nine men who interpret them are often the SCOTUS [Supreme Court of the United States].
The people who enact them are still, for better or worse, Congress.

According to the information available to me, and which I had assumed was generally available, for over two years now SCOTUS has not consisted of nine men. If you have any contradictory information, I would be grateful if you would forward it as I am sure the POTUS, the SCOTUS and the undersigned (the FWOTSC) would be most interested in seeing it.

Sandra D. O'Connor, Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, October 12, 1983[34]

In several speeches broadcast nationally on the cable network C-SPAN, she mentioned feeling some relief from the media clamor when Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined her as an Associate Justice of the Court in 1993. In May 2010, O'Connor warned female Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan about the "unpleasant" process of confirmation hearings.[35]

Supreme Court jurisprudence

Voting record and deciding votes

Justice O'Connor presents Alberto Gonzales to the audience after swearing him in as U.S. Attorney General, as Mrs. Becky Gonzales looks on.

O'Connor was part of the federalism movement and approached each case as narrowly as possible, avoiding generalizations that might later "paint her into a corner" for future cases. Initially, her voting record aligned closely with the conservative William Rehnquist (voting with him 87% of the time her first three years at the Court).[36] From that time until 1998 O'Connor's alignment with Rehnquist ranged from 93.4% to 63.2%, hitting above 90% in three of those years.[37] In nine of her first sixteen years on the Court, O'Connor voted with Rehnquist more than with any other justice.[37]

Lator on, as the Court's make-up became more conservative (e.g., Anthony Kennedy replacing Lewis Powell, and Clarence Thomas replacing Thurgood Marshall), O'Connor often became the swing vote on the Court. However, she usually disappointed the Court's more liberal bloc in contentious 5–4 decisions: from 1994 to 2004, she joined the traditional conservative bloc of Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, and Thomas 82 times; she joined the liberal bloc of John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Ginsburg, and Stephen Breyer only 28 times.[38]

O'Connor's relatively small[39] shift away from conservatives on the Court seems to have been due at least in part to Thomas's views.[40] When Thomas and O'Connor were voting on the same side, she would typically write a separate opinion of her own, refusing to join his.[41] In the 1992 term, O'Connor did not join a single one of Thomas' dissents.[42]

Willamette University College of Law Professor Steven Green, who served for nine years as general counsel for Americans United for Separation of Church and State and has argued before the Court numerous times stated, "She was a moderating voice on the court and was very hesitant to expand the law in either direction." Green also noted that, unlike some other Court justices, O'Connor "[s]eemed to look at each case with an open mind".[43]

Some of the cases in which O'Connor was the deciding vote include:

McConnell v. FEC, 540 U.S. 93 (2003)
This ruling upheld the constitutionality of most of the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance bill regulating "soft money" contributions.
Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003) and Gratz v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 244 (2003)
O'Connor wrote the opinion of the court in Grutter and joined the majority in Gratz. In this pair of cases, the University of Michigan's undergraduate admissions program was held to have engaged in unconstitutional reverse discrimination, but the more-limited type of affirmative action in the University of Michigan Law School's admissions program was held to have been constitutional.
Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, 536 U.S. 639 (2002)
O'Connor joined the majority holding that the use of school vouchers for religious schools did not violate the First Amendment's Establishment Clause.
Bush v. Gore, 531 U.S. 98 (2000)
O'Connor joined with four other justices on December 12, 2000, to rule on the Bush v. Gore case that ceased challenges to the results of the 2000 presidential election (ruling to stop the ongoing Florida election recount and to allow no further recounts). This case effectively ended Gore's hopes to become president. Some legal scholars have argued that she should have recused herself from this case, citing several reports that she became upset when the media initially announced that Gore had won Florida, with her husband explaining that they would have to wait another four years before retiring to Arizona.[44]

O'Connor played an important role in other notable cases, such as:

Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, 492 U.S. 490 (1989)
This decision upheld as constitutional state restrictions on second trimester abortions that are not necessary to protect maternal health, contrary to the original trimester requirements in Roe v. Wade. Although O'Connor joined the majority, which also included Rehnquist, Scalia, Kennedy and Byron White, in a concurring opinion she refused to explicitly overturn Roe.

On February 22, 2005, with Rehnquist and Stevens (who was senior to her) absent, she presided over oral arguments in the case of Kelo v. City of New London, becoming the first woman to preside over an oral argument before the Court.

First Amendment

Sandra Day O’Connor was very unpredictable in many of her court decisions, especially those regarding First Amendment issues. This might be due to the fact that instead of letting herself be guided by her conservative ideologies, she decided on a case-by-case basis and voted with careful deliberation in a way that she felt benefited individual rights and the Constitution (which she viewed to be “an ever changing work in progress.”) Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said, “O’Connor was a conservative, but she saw the complexity of church-state issues and tried to choose a course that respected the country’s religious diversity” (Hudson 2005). O’Connor voted in favor of many religious cases, such as in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, Mitchell v. Helms, and Rosenberger v. University of Virginia, but when it came to involving the inclusion of prayer in an educational atmosphere, (the Establishment Clause), she usually voted against it. The case of Lee v. Weisman demonstrates this. She was part of the majority in the case that saw religious prayer and pressure to stand in silence at a graduation ceremony as part of a religious act that coerced people to support/participate in religion, which is strictly prohibited by the Establishment Clause. This is consistent with a similar religious case, Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe, involving prayer at a school football game. In this case O’Connor was in the majority opinion that stated prayer at school football games violates the Establishment Clause (Oyez, 2016). Sandra Day O’Connor’s First Amendment jurisprudence was developed by her personal experience of being discriminated against as a woman. This led her to tend to vote in ways that benefited the individual and minorities, protected their equal rights, and protected the individual from discrimination.

Notable First Amendment Court Cases: R. A. V. v. City of St. Paul, 505 U.S. 377 (1992). Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, 536 U.S. 639 (2002). Hill v. Colorado, 530 U.S. 703 (2000). Board of Education of the Westside Community Schools v. Mergens, 496 U.S. 226 (1990). Board of Education v. Pico, 457 U.S. 853 (1982). Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition, 535 U.S. 234 (2002). Bob Jones University v. United States, 461 U.S. 574 (1983). Lee v. Weisman, 505 U.S. 577 (1992) Santa Fe Independent School Dist. v. Doe, 530 U.S. 290 (2000). Bowen v. Roy, 476 U.S. 693 (1986). United States v. Eichman, 496 U.S. 310(1990). Goldman v. Weinberger, 475 U.S. 503 (1986). Virginia v. Black, 538 U.S. 343 (2003). Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S 668 (1984). Board of Education of Kiryas Joel Village School v. Grumet, 512 U.S. 687 (1994). Mueller v. Allen, 463 U.S. 388 (1983).

Rosenberger v. University of Virginia, 515 U.S. 819 (1995).

McCreary County v. ACLU of Kentucky, 545 U.S. 844 (2005). Boy Scouts of America et al. v. Dale, 530 U.S. 640 (2000).

Fourth Amendment

According to George Washington University law professor Jeffrey Rosen, "O'Connor was an eloquent opponent of intrusive group searches that threatened privacy without increasing security. In a 1983 opinion upholding searches by drug-sniffing dogs, she recognized that a search is most likely to be considered constitutionally reasonable if it is very effective at discovering contraband without revealing innocent but embarrassing information."[45] Washington College of Law law professor Andrew Taslitz, referencing O'Connor's dissent in a 2001 case, said of her Fourth Amendment jurisprudence: "O'Connor recognizes that needless humiliation of an individual is an important factor in determining Fourth Amendment reasonableness."[46] O'Connor once quoted the social contract theory of John Locke as influencing her views on the reasonableness and constitutionality of government action.[47]

Cases involving minorities

In the 1990 and 1995 Missouri v. Jenkins rulings, O'Connor voted with the majority that district courts had no authority to require the state of Missouri to increase school funding in order to counteract racial inequality. In the 1991 Freeman v. Pitts case, O'Connor joined a concurring opinion in a plurality, agreeing that a school district that had formerly been under judicial review for racial segregation could be freed of this review, even though not all desegregation targets had been met. Law professor Herman Schwartz criticized these rulings, writing that in both cases "both the fact and effects of segregation were still present."[48]

In 1987's McCleskey v. Kemp, O'Connor joined a 5–4 majority that voted to uphold the death penalty for an African American man, Warren McCleskey, convicted of killing a white police officer, despite statistical evidence that black defendants were more likely to receive the death penalty than others both in Georgia and in the U.S. as a whole.[48][49][50]

In 1996's Shaw v. Hunt and Shaw v. Reno, O'Connor joined a Rehnquist opinion, following an earlier path-breaking decision she authored in 1993, in which the court struck down an electoral districting plan designed to facilitate the election of two black representatives out of twelve from North Carolina, a state that had not had any black representative since Reconstruction, despite being approximately 20% black[48]—the Court held that the districts were unacceptably gerrymandered and O'Connor called the odd shape of the district in question, North Carolina's 12th, "bizarre".

Law Professor Herman Schwartz called O'Connor "the Court’s leader in its assault on racially oriented affirmative action,"[48] although she joined with the Court in upholding the constitutionality of race-based admissions to universities.[23]

In late 2008, O'Connor said she believed racial affirmative action should continue to help heal the inequalities created by racial discrimination. She stressed this wouldn't be a cure-all but rather a bandage and that society has to do much more to correct our racial imbalance. In 2003 Justice O'Connor authored a majority Supreme Court opinion (Grutter v. Bollinger) saying racial affirmative action wouldn't be constitutional permanently but long enough to correct past discrimination ─ an approximation limit of around 25 years, or until 2028.[51]


The four women who have served on the Court (from left to right: O'Connor and Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Elena Kagan) on October 1, 2010, prior to Justice Kagan's Investiture Ceremony.

In her confirmation hearings and early days on the court, O'Connor was carefully ambiguous on the issue of abortion, as some conservatives questioned her pro-life credentials on the basis of some of her votes in the Arizona legislature.[26] O'Connor generally dissented from 1980s opinions which took an expansive view of Roe v. Wade; she criticized that decision's "trimester approach" sharply in her dissent in 1983's City of Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health. She criticized Roe in Thornburgh v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: "... I dispute not only the wisdom but also the legitimacy of the Court's attempt to discredit and pre-empt state abortion regulation regardless of the interests it serves and the impact it has."[52] In 1989, O'Connor stated during the deliberations over the Webster case that she would not overrule Roe.[53] While on the Court, O'Connor did not vote to strike down any restrictions on abortion until Hodgson v. Minnesota in 1990.

O'Connor allowed certain limits to be placed on access to abortion, but supported the fundamental right to abortion protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, O'Connor used a test she had originally developed in City of Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health to limit the holding of Roe v. Wade, opening up a legislative portal where a State could enact measures so long as they did not place an "undue burden" on a woman's right to an abortion. Casey revised downward the standard of scrutiny federal courts would apply to state abortion restrictions, a major departure from Roe. However it preserved Roe's core constitutional precept: that the Fourteenth Amendment implies and protects a fundamental right to control the outcomes of one's reproductive actions. Writing the plurality opinion for the Court, O'Connor, along with Justices Kennedy and Souter, famously declared: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion of the State.”[54]

Foreign law

O'Connor was a vigorous defender of the citing of foreign laws in judicial decisions.[55] In a well-publicized October 28, 2003, speech at the Southern Center for International Studies, O'Connor said:

The impressions we create in this world are important and can leave their mark ... [T]here is talk today about the "internationalization of legal relations". We are already seeing this in American courts, and should see it increasingly in the future. This does not mean, of course, that our courts can or should abandon their character as domestic institutions. But conclusions reached by other countries and by the international community, although not formally binding upon our decisions, should at times constitute persuasive authority in American courts—what is sometimes called "transjudicialism".[56]

In the speech she noted the 2002 Court case, Atkins v. Virginia, in which the majority decision (which included her) cited disapproval of the death penalty in Europe as part of its argument. This speech, and the general concept of relying on foreign law and opinion, was widely criticized by conservatives.[57] In May 2004, the U.S. House of Representatives responded by passing a non-binding resolution, the "Reaffirmation of American Independence Resolution", stating that "U.S. judicial decisions should not be based on any foreign laws, court decisions, or pronouncements of foreign governments unless they are relevant to determining the meaning of American constitutional and statutory law."[58]

O'Connor once quoted the constitution of the Middle Eastern nation of Bahrain, which states that "[n]o authority shall prevail over the judgement of a judge, and under no circumstances may the course of justice be interfered with." Further, "[i]t is in everyone's interest to foster the rule-of-law evolution." O'Connor proposed that such ideas be taught in American law schools, high schools and universities. Critics contend that such thinking is contrary to the U.S. Constitution and establishes a rule of man, rather than law.[56] In her retirement, she has continued to speak and organize conferences on the issue of judicial independence.

Conservative criticism

O'Connor's case-by-case approach routinely placed her in the center of the court and drew both criticism and praise. The Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, for instance, described her as lacking a judicial philosophy and instead displaying "political positioning embedded in a social agenda".[59] Another conservative commentator, Ramesh Ponnuru, wrote that, although O'Connor "has voted reasonably well", her tendency to issue very case-specific rulings "undermines the predictability of the law and aggrandizes the judicial role".[60]


O'Connor was successfully treated for breast cancer in 1988 (she also had her appendix removed that year). One side effect of this experience was that there was perennial speculation over the next seventeen years that she might retire from the Court.

On December 12, 2000, The Wall Street Journal reported that O'Connor was reluctant to retire with a Democrat in the presidency: "At an Election Night party at the Washington, D.C. home of Mary Ann Stoessel, widow of former Ambassador Walter Stoessel, the justice's husband, John O'Connor, mentioned to others her desire to step down, according to three witnesses. But Mr. O'Connor said his wife would be reluctant to retire if a Democrat were in the White House and would choose her replacement. Justice O'Connor declined to comment."[61]

Justice O'Connor and her husband John O'Connor with President George W. Bush in May 2004.
Justice O'Connor's letter to Bush, dated July 1, 2005, announcing her retirement

By 2005, the membership of the Court had been static for eleven years, the second-longest period without a change in the Court's composition in American history. Rehnquist was widely expected to be the first justice to retire during Bush's term, because of his age and his battle with cancer. However, on July 1, 2005, it was O'Connor who announced her retirement plans. In her letter to Bush she stated that her retirement from active service would take effect upon the confirmation of her successor.

On July 19, Bush nominated D.C. Circuit Judge John G. Roberts, Jr. to succeed O'Connor. O'Connor heard the news over the car radio on the way back from a fishing trip. She felt he was an excellent and highly qualified choice — he had argued numerous cases before the Court during her tenure. However, she was terribly disappointed her replacement was not a woman.[62]

On July 21, O'Connor spoke to a Ninth Circuit conference and blamed the televising of Senate Judiciary Committee hearings for escalated conflicts over judges. She expressed sadness over attacks on the independent judiciary, and praised President Reagan for opening doors for women. O'Connor had been expected to leave the Court before the next term started on October 3, 2005. However, Rehnquist died on September 3 (she spoke at his funeral). Two days later, Bush withdrew Roberts as his nominee for her seat and instead appointed him to fill the vacant office of Chief Justice. O'Connor agreed to stay on the Court until her replacement was confirmed. On October 3, Bush nominated White House Counsel Harriet Miers to replace O'Connor. After much criticism and controversy over her nomination, on October 27, Miers asked Bush to withdraw her nomination. Bush accepted her request later the same day. On October 31, Bush nominated Third Circuit Judge Samuel Alito to replace O'Connor; Alito was confirmed and sworn in on January 31, 2006.

O'Connor's last Court opinion, Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of New England, written for a unanimous court, was a procedural decision that involved abortion.

She stated that she planned to travel, spend time with family, and, because of her fear of the attacks on judges by legislators, would work with the American Bar Association on a commission to help explain the separation of powers and the role of judges. She also announced that she was working on a new book, which will focus on the early history of the Court. She is a trustee on the board of the Rockefeller Foundation. She stated that she would have preferred to stay on the Court for several more years but stepped down to spend more time with her husband, who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease prior to his death in 2009. O'Connor said it was her plan to follow the tradition of previous justices, who enjoy lifetime appointments. "Most of them get ill and are really in bad shape, which I would've done at the end of the day myself, I suppose, except my husband was ill and I needed to take action there."'[63]

Since retiring, she has continued to hear cases and rendered over a dozen opinions in federal appellate courts across the country, filling in as a substitute judge when vacations or vacancies leave their three-member panels understaffed.[64]

O'Connor has reflected on her time on the Supreme Court by saying that she regrets the court hearing the Bush v. Gore case in 2000 because it "stirred up the public" and "gave the court a less-than-perfect reputation." The former justice told the Chicago Tribune that "Maybe the court should have said, 'We’re not going to take it, goodbye,’...It turned out the election authorities in Florida hadn’t done a real good job there and kind of messed it up. And probably the Supreme Court added to the problem at the end of the day.”[65][66][67]

Post-Supreme Court career

O'Connor in 2008 with then Harvard Law School Dean Elena Kagan. Kagan is the fourth female Justice on the Court.


On March 9, 2006, during a speech at Georgetown University, O'Connor said some political attacks on the independence of the courts pose a direct threat to the constitutional freedoms of Americans. She said "any reform of the system is debatable as long as it is not motivated by 'nakedly partisan reasoning' retaliation because congressmen or senators dislike the result of the cases. Courts interpret the law as it was written, not as the congressmen might have wished it was written", and "it takes a lot of degeneration before a country falls into dictatorship, but we should avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings."[68] On September 19, 2006, she echoed her concerns for an independent judiciary during the dedication address at the Elon University School of Law.

On September 28, 2006, O'Connor co-hosted and spoke at a conference at Georgetown University Law Center, Fair and Independent Courts: A Conference on the State of the Judiciary.[69][70]

Judge William H. Pryor, Jr., a conservative jurist, has criticized O'Connor's speeches and op-eds for hyperbole and factual inaccuracy, based in part on O'Connor's opinions as to whether judges face a rougher time in the public eye today than in the past.[71][72]

On November 7, 2007, at a conference on her landmark opinion in Strickland v. Washington (1984) sponsored by the Constitution Project, O'Connor urged the creation of a system for "merit selection for judges". She also highlighted the lack of proper legal representation for many of the poorest defendants.[73]

On August 7, 2008, O'Connor and Abdurrahman Wahid, the former President of Indonesia, wrote an editorial in the Financial Times stating their concerns about the threatened imprisonment of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.[74]

On November 19, 2008, O'Connor published an introductory essay to a themed issue on judicial accountability in the Denver University Law Review. She calls for a better public understanding of judicial accountability.[75]

On January 26, 2010, O'Connor issued her own polite public dissent to the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision on corporate political spending, telling law students that the court has created an unwelcome new path for wealthy interests to exert influence on judicial elections.[76]

On February 17, 2016, O'Connor argued in favor of President Barack Obama naming the replacement for Antonin Scalia, opposing Republican arguments that the next president should get to fill the vacancy. She said, "I think we need somebody there to do the job now and let's get on with it"; and that "[y]ou just have to pick the best person you can under the circumstances, as the appointing authority must do. It's an important position and one that we care about as a nation and as a people. And I wish the president well as he makes choices and goes down that line. It's hard."[77]

Activities and memberships

As a Retired Supreme Court Justice (roughly equivalent to senior status for judges of lower federal courts), O'Connor has continued to receive a full salary, maintain a staffed office with at least one law clerk, and to hear cases on a part-time basis in federal district courts and courts of appeals as a visiting judge.

In 2003, she wrote a book titled The Majesty of the Law: Reflections of a Supreme Court Justice (ISBN 0-375-50925-9).

On October 4, 2005, President Gene Nichol of the College of William & Mary announced that O'Connor had accepted[78] the largely ceremonial role of becoming the 23rd Chancellor of the College, replacing Henry Kissinger, and following in the position held by Margaret Thatcher, Chief Justice Warren Burger, and President George Washington. The Investiture Ceremony was held April 7, 2006. O'Connor continued to make semi-regular visits to the college until she was succeeded in that post by former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.[79]

In 2005, she wrote a children's book, Chico (ISBN 0-525-47452-8), which gives an autobiographical description of her childhood.

O'Connor was a member of the 2006 Iraq Study Group, appointed by the U.S. Congress.[80]

On May 15, 2006, O'Connor gave the commencement address at the William & Mary School of Law, where she said that judicial independence is "under serious attack at both the state and national level".[81]

As of Spring 2006, O'Connor teaches a two-week course called "The Supreme Court" at the University of Arizona's James E. Rogers College of Law every spring semester.

In October 2006, O'Connor sat as a member of panels of the United States Courts of Appeals for the Second, Eighth, and Ninth Circuits, to hear arguments in one-day's cases in each court.[82]

O'Connor chaired the Jamestown 2007 celebration, commemorating the 400th anniversary of the founding of the colony at Jamestown, Virginia in 1607. Her appearances in Jamestown dovetailed with her appearances and speeches as chancellor at The College of William & Mary nearby. In the fall of 2007, O'Connor and W. Scott Bales taught a course at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University.

In 2008, O'Connor was named an inaugural Harry Rathbun Visiting Fellow by the Office for Religious Life at Stanford University. On April 22, 2008, she gave "Harry's Last Lecture on a Meaningful Life" in honor of the former Stanford Law professor who shaped her undergraduate and law careers.[83]

In 2009, O'Connor founded the 501(c)3 non-profit organization, O'Connor House, dedicated to solving complex issues through civil discourse and collaborative action.

In February 2009, O'Connor launched Our Courts, a website she created to offer interactive civics lessons to students and teachers because she was concerned about the lack of knowledge among most young Americans about how their government works. She also serves as a co-chair with Lee H. Hamilton for the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools.[84] On March 3, 2009, O'Connor appeared on the satirical television program The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to promote the website. In August 2009, added two online interactive games.[85] The initiative expanded, becoming iCivics in May 2010, and continues to offer free lessons plans, games, and interactive videogames for middle and high school educators.[86] During the inauguration of Mesa Municipal Court on April 16, 2010, she gracefully received a blessed garland – along with a copy of Bhagavad-Gītā As It Is[87] from Dr. Prayag Narayan Misra – a Hare Krishna devotee.[88]

She currently serves on the Board of Trustees of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, which is a museum dedicated to the U.S. Constitution.[89]

She wrote the 2013 book Out of Order: Stories from the History of the Supreme Court.[90]

In April 2013, the Board of Directors of Justice at Stake, a national judicial reform advocacy organization, announced that O'Connor would be joining the organization as Honorary Chair.”[91]

On September 17, 2014 O'Connor appeared on the television show Jeopardy! and provided a couple of video answers to the category 'Supreme Court' which appeared on the show. On the same day in Concord, New Hampshire, she gave a talk alongside her former colleague Justice David Souter about the importance of meaningful civics education in the United States.[92]

In March 2015, O'Connor's non-profit organization, O'Connor House, became the Sandra Day O'Connor Institute. The Institute's focus is to create an environment where important policy decisions are made through a process of civil discussion, critical analysis of facts and informed participation of all citizens. O'Connor serves as Founder and Advisor to the O'Connor Institute.

Legacy, awards, pop culture

O'Connor's house was moved from Paradise Valley, Ariz., to Tempe's Papago Park.

See also

Further reading


  2. Weisman, Steven R. (July 7, 1981). "Reagan Nominating Woman, an Arizona Appeals Judge, to Serve on Supreme Court". The New York Times. Retrieved September 10, 2009.
  3. "O'Connor, Sandra Day". Federal Judicial Center. Retrieved March 21, 2006.
  4. Stevenson, R. W. (July 1, 2005) O'Connor, First Woman Supreme Court Justice, Resigns After 24 Years, The New York Times. Retrieved September 10, 2005
  5. "Reagan's Nomination of O'Connor". Retrieved November 7, 2015.
  6. McCaslin, John (November 7, 2001). "Power Women". McCaslin's Beltway Beat. Washington, D.C.: Retrieved June 15, 2009. ... Ladies' Home Journal, ... ranks the 30 Most Powerful Women based on cultural clout, financial impact, achievement, visibility, influence, intellect, political know-how and staying power. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton ranks 5th on the list behind Miss Winfrey, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Martha Stewart and Barbara Walters
  7. "The World's Most Powerful Women". Forbes. August 20, 2004. Archived from the original on March 15, 2009. Retrieved March 4, 2009.
  8. Oyez: Sandra Day O'Connor, U.S. Supreme Court Justice
  9. Former Pima County Supervisor Ann Day dies at the age of 77
  10. "Book Discussion on Sisters in Law" Presenter: Linda Hirshman, author. Politics and Prose Bookstore. BookTV, Washington. September 3, 2015. 13 minutes in. Retrieved September 12, 2015 C-Span website
  11. Washington Valdez, Diana (July 2, 2005). "Hometown stars – Sandra Day O'Connor". El Paso Times. Retrieved December 19, 2010.
  12. "Transcript: O'Connor on FOX". Fox News Channel. July 1, 2005.
  13. Biskupic, Joan. Sandra Day O'Connor: How the First Woman on the Supreme Court became its most influential justice. New York: Harper Collins, 2005
  14. Q & A: Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Retrieved June 13, 2013.
  15. Debbie Kornmiller, "O'Connor's class rank an error that will not die", Arizona Daily Star (July 10, 2005). Archived at O'Connor's class rank an error that will not die. Retrieved June 13, 2013.
  16. "John J. O'Connor III, 79; husband of Supreme Court justice". The Washington Post. November 12, 2009. Retrieved October 4, 2012.
  17. 1 2 3 "'Out Of Order' At The Court: O'Connor On Being The First Female Justice". Fresh Air. March 5, 2013. Retrieved March 5, 2013.
  18. Baughman, J. (Ed.). (2001). O’Connor, Sandra Day 1930-. American Decades, 9. 21. Sept. 2016.
  19. Phelps, S. (Ed.). (2002). O’Connor, Sandra Day (1930 - ). World of Criminal Justice, 20. Sept. 2016.
  20. Arizona State Library-Arizona Legislators: Then & Now-Sandra Day O'Connor
  21. "General Election Canvass, 1974, p. 5" (PDF). Arizona Secretary of State. Retrieved 25 February 2016.
  22. Arizona Court of Appeals Division One-Sandar D. O'Connor
  23. 1 2 James Taranto; Leonard Leo (2004). Presidential Leadership. Wall Street Journal Books. ISBN 978-0-7432-7226-1. Retrieved October 20, 2008.
  24. 1 2 "1981 Year in Review: Reagan Foreign Policy Speech/O'Connor Appointed to Supreme Court".
  25. U.S. National Archives. "Reagan's Nomination of O'Connor". Retrieved August 19, 2014.
  26. 1 2 3 Greenburg (2007), p. 222
  27. Julia Malone (July 8, 1981). "A closer look at nation's first woman high court nominee". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved May 20, 2016.
  28. Julia Malone (September 3, 1981). "New Right strategy: let's drag out O'Connor's confirmation hearing; Focus: abortion, women's rights, school prayer". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved May 23, 2016.
  29. Greenburg (2007), pp. 222–223
  30. Greenburg (2007), p. 223
  31. 1 2 Greenhouse, Linda. Becoming Justice Blackmun. Times Books (2005); p. 141
  32. Transcript (January 30, 2008). "Transcript of GOP debate at Reagan Library". CNN. June 30, 2008. Retrieved August 27, 2009.
  33. Lowe, Rebecca (August 30, 2011). "Supremely confident: the legacy of Sandra Day O'Connor". The Guardian.
  34. "High Court's '9 Men' Were a Surprise to One", The New York Times, October 5, 1983 re: (First Woman On The Supreme Court); William Safire, "On Language; Potus and Flotus", The New York Times Magazine, October 12, 1997. Retrieved December 7, 2007
  35. Clarke, Suzan (May 27, 2010). "Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor Backs Elena Kagan Nomination". ABC News. Retrieved December 19, 2010.
  36. Greenburg (2007), p. 68
  37. 1 2 Op-ed essay Schwartz, Herman (April 12, 1998). "O'Connor as a 'Centrist'? Not When Minorities Are Involved". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 28, 2009.
  38. "Nine Justices, Ten Years: A Statistical Retrospective" (PDF). Harvard Law Review. 118 (1): 521. November 2004. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 27, 2006. Retrieved August 31, 2011.
  39. Lane, Charles (November 1, 2004). "Justices Too Tightlipped on Their Health?". The Washington Post. p. A19. Retrieved December 19, 2010.
  40. Greenburg (2007), pp. 122–123
  41. Greenburg (2007), pp. 123, 134
  42. Greenburg (2007), p. 123
  43. Smythe, Barbara (February–March 2006). "Retired But Remembered: Oregon lawyers reminisce about Justice Sandra Day O'Connor". Oregon State Bar Bulletin. Retrieved April 26, 2007.
  44. Neumann, Richard K., Jr. (2003). "Conflicts of interest in Bush v. Gore: Did some justices vote illegally?". Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics: 34. The article cites multiple, uncontested sources on this and related incidents, and argues they were grounds for recusal on three separate bases: personal bias regarding a party to litigation, appearance of partiality, and material interest.
  45. Rosen, Jeffrey (November 28, 2010). "The TSA is invasive, annoying – and unconstitutional". The Washington Post.
  46. Taslitz, Andrew Reconstructing the Fourth Amendment: a history of search and seizure, 1789–1868, pg. 83
  47. "Regula Pro Lege, Si Deficit Lex: The Latin Sapience of High Judges". The Federal Bar Association. Retrieved November 17, 2016.
  48. 1 2 3 4 O’Connor as a ‘Centrist’? Not When Minorities Are Involved, Herman Schwartz, Los Angeles Times, April 12, 1988.
  49. McCleskey v. Kemp, New Georgia Encyclopedia
  50. David Baldus, et al., In The Post-Furman Era: An Empirical And Legal Overview, With Recent Findings From Philadelphia, 83 Cornell L. Rev. 1638 (1998)
  51. Justice O'Connor: affirmative action should continue, archived from the original on January 18, 2012, retrieved March 9, 2012
  52. Greenhouse, Linda. Becoming Justice Blackmun. Times Books. 2005. p. 183
  53. Greenburg (2007), p. 80
  54. Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833, 851 (1992).
  55. (Italian) Il diritto straniero e la Corte suprema statunitense, in Quaderni costituzionali, giugno 2006.
  56. 1 2 Remarks at the Southern Center for International Studies, Sandra Day O'Connor, October 28, 2003
  57. Phyllis Schlafly (May 2005). "Is Relying on Foreign Law Impeachable?". The Phyllis Schlafly Report.
  58. "Reaffirmation of American Independence Resolution Approved", May 13, 2004
  59. Krauthammer, Charles (July 8, 2005). "Philosophy for a Judge". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 18, 2005.
  60. Ponnuru, Ramesh (June 30, 2003). "Sandra's Day". National Review. Retrieved March 18, 2007.
  61. "Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics: "Conflicts of interest in Bush v. Gore: Did some justices vote illegally?"". The Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics. 2003. Retrieved November 18, 2005.
  62. Lodge, Sally (May 28, 2009). "Q & A with Sandra Day O'Connor". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved March 5, 2013.
  63. Staff writer (February 5, 2007). "Former Justice O'Connor:'I Would Have Stayed Longer'". The Associated Press via NewsMax Media. Retrieved August 24, 2009.
  64. Bravin, Jess (August 11, 2009). "Change of Venue: In Retirement, Justice O'Connor Still Rules". The Wall Street Journal.
  65. "O'Connor questions court's decision to take Bush v. Gore". Chicago Tribune. April 27, 2013.
  66. GRANITE STATE INS. CO. V. AM. BLDG. MATERIALS, INC., No. 12-10979, 11th Circuit, 2013
  68. "O'Connor Decries Republican Attacks on Courts".
  69. Greg Langlois & Anne Cassidy. "Fair and Independent Courts: A Conference on the State of the Judiciary" (Press release). Georgetown University Law Center. Retrieved November 11, 2006.
  70. "Fair and Independent Courts: A Conference on the State of the Judiciary – Remarks by Sandra Day O'Connor" (PDF). Georgetown University Law Center. September 28, 2006. Retrieved January 4, 2010.
  71. Pryor Jr, William H. (October 4, 2006). "Neither Force Nor Will, But Merely Judgment". The Wall Street Journal.
  72. "Judge Pryor on Judicial Independence", Harvard Law Record, March 15, 2007.
  73. "Justice O'Connor's Wish: a Wand, not a Gavel", U.S. News & World Report, November 7, 2007.
  74. "To defend Anwar is to defend Malaysian democracy", Sandra Day O’Connor and Abdurrahman Wahid, Financial Times, August 7, 2008
  75. Judicial Accountability Must Safeguard, Not Threaten, Judicial Independence: An Introduction, 86 Denv. U.L. Rev. 1 (2008)
  76. Mosk, Matthew (January 26, 2010). "O'Connor Calls Citizens United Ruling A Problem". ABC News. Retrieved December 19, 2010.
  77. Cristian Farias, "Sandra Day O'Connor Says Obama Should Get To Replace Justice Scalia", Huffington Post, (February 17, 2016).
  78. "The College of William and Mary announcement of O'Connor's appointment to Chancellor post". Retrieved November 18, 2005.
  79. Whitson, Brian. "Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates '65 to Serve as W&M Chancellor". College of William & Mary. Retrieved September 6, 2011.
  80. "Iraq Study Group Members". Archived from the original on November 8, 2006. Retrieved November 10, 2006.
  81. Whitson, Brian. "Maintain Judicial Independence O'Connor Tells Law Graduates". Retrieved September 19, 2007.
  82. Mulcahy, Ned (October 7, 2006). "Paper Chase: O'Connor to hear Second Circuit cases". JURIST. Retrieved November 11, 2006.
  83. Office for Religious Life at Stanford University
  84. "Campaign Steering Committee". Retrieved November 2, 2015.
  85. Zehr, Mary Ann (August 25, 2009). "Celebrities Lend Weight to Promote Civics Education". Education Week. Retrieved September 1, 2009.
  86. "iCivics (formerly Our Courts) homepage". Retrieved December 19, 2010.
  87. "Bhagavad Gita As It Is Original by Prabhupada". Retrieved November 2, 2015.
  88. "Krishna Consciousness, Golden Rule, Interfaith and Judges". Dandavats. Retrieved November 2, 2015.
  89. "National Constitution Center, Board of Trustees". National Constitution Center Web Site. National Constitution Center. July 26, 2010. Archived from the original on July 26, 2010. Retrieved July 27, 2010.
  90. "Bumpy Start for a Court Cloaked in Grandeur". The New York Times. March 4, 2013. Retrieved March 4, 2013.
  91. "Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor Joins Justice at Stake as Honorary Chair - JAS". April 15, 2013. Retrieved November 2, 2015.
  92. "Constitutionally Speaking New Hampshire". Retrieved November 2, 2015.
  93. Justice O'Connor's remarks on the courthouses' dedication, October 2000.
  94. "O'Connor named to cowgirl hall of fame". Women's Issues via United Press International. July 2002. Retrieved July 16, 2011.
  95. 2003 Recipient Sandra Day O'Connor – Liberty Medal – National Constitution Center
  96. "National". Jefferson Awards. Retrieved November 2, 2015.
  97. Sanda Day O'Connor Courthouse
  98. "ASU names College of Law after O'Connor". Arizona State University. April 5, 2006. Retrieved September 19, 2007.
  99. "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter O" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved April 22, 2011.
  100. Sandra Day O'Connor House
  101. "President Obama Names Medal of Freedom Recipients – 16 Agents of Change to Receive Top Civilian Honor". White House Office of the Press Secretary. Retrieved September 1, 2009.
  102. News release (August 12, 2009). "Medal of Freedom Ceremony". White House Office of the Press Secretary. Retrieved September 1, 2009.
  103. Reilly, Mollie (October 28, 2013). "The Women Of The Supreme Court Now Have The Badass Portrait They Deserve". The Huffington Post. Retrieved November 2, 2015.
  104. "Sandra Day O'Connor Convocation Speech, Eureka College, 4-9-13". YouTube. Retrieved November 2, 2015.


  • Greenburg, Jan Crawford (2007). Supreme Conflict: the Inside Story of the Struggle for Control of the United States Supreme Court. Penguin Books. 

External links

Wikiquote has quotations related to: Sandra Day O'Connor
Wikisource has original works written by or about:
Sandra Day O'Connor
Additional information
Legal offices
Preceded by
Potter Stewart
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
Succeeded by
Samuel Alito
Academic offices
Preceded by
Henry Kissinger
Chancellor of the College of William and Mary
Succeeded by
Robert Gates
United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
John Paul Stevens
as Senior Associate Justice of the Supreme Court
Order of Precedence of the United States
as Senior Associate Justice of the Supreme Court
Succeeded by
David Souter
as Senior Associate Justice of the Supreme Court
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 12/4/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.