How many years did Sandra Day O'Connor serve on the Supreme Court?
Happy birthday, Sandra Day O'Connor! With this whole isolation thing, my random questions have slowed a bit, so there have been a lot of "this day in history" type bits. When I saw today was Sandra Day O'Connor's birthday, I knew she was going to be my Daily Doodle!
Sandra Day was born in El Paso, Texas, on March 26, 1930. She grew up on a large family ranch near Duncan, Arizona. She graduated from Stanford University in 1950 and Stanford University Law School in 1952. Stanford was where she met the future chief justice of the United States William Rehnquist and her classmate and future husband, John Jay O’Connor III. The two wed after graduation. Sandra Day O'Connor was unable to find employment in a law firm because she was a woman despite her academic achievements. One firm offered her a job as a secretary. After a brief tenure as deputy district attorney in San Mateo county, California, she and her husband, a member of the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General Corps, moved to Germany, where she served as a civil attorney for the army (1954–1957).
Upon her return to the United States, O’Connor engaged in private law practice. She was appointed to the Arizona State Senate in 1969 to fill an unexpired term, and the following year she was elected to the State Senate. She was re-elected twice and was majority leader of the State Senate from 1973 to 1974. O’Connor was elected to the Maricopa County Superior Court in 1975 and appointed to the Arizona Court of Appeals in 1979.
President Ronald Reagan nominated O’Connor to the Supreme Court of the United States on July 7, 1981. O’Connor was confirmed unanimously by the Senate on September 22, 1981, and sworn in September 25, 1981, making O’Connor the first female Associate Justice in the history of the Court.
Sandra Day O'Connor was known for her meticulously researched opinions. She and Justice Anthony Kennedy, were known as a decisive swing votes in the Supreme Court’s decisions. In disparate fields as election law and abortion rights, she attempted to fashion workable solutions to major constitutional questions, often over the course of several cases. O’Connor’s views on abortion rights were articulated gradually. In a series of rulings, she signaled a reluctance to support any decision that would deny women the right to choose a safe and legal abortion, "defecting” in part from the conservative majority. In her decisions in election law she emphasized the importance of equal-protection claims (Shaw v.Reno ), declared unconstitutional district boundaries that are “unexplainable on grounds other than race” (Bush v.Vera ), and sided with the Court’s more liberal members in upholding the configuration of a congressional district in North Carolina created on the basis of variables including but not limited to race (Easley v.Cromartie ).
Justice O'Connor served on the Supreme Court for twenty four years and retired on January 31, 2006. She was the author of several books, including Lazy B (2002; cowritten with her brother, H. Alan Day) a memoir focusing on her family’s ranch, and Out of Order: Stories from the History of the Supreme Court (2013), a collection of anecdotes charting the genesis and maturation of the Supreme Court. O’Connor also wrote the children’s booksChico (2005) and Finding Susie (2009), both of which were based on her childhood experiences. In 2009 she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In a letter in 2018 she announced that she had been diagnosed with early-stage dementia and would withdraw from public life.