Justice Sandra Day O’Connor Passes Away
Sandra Day O’Connor, the trailblazing first female Supreme Court Justice and a pivotal swing voter in landmark cases, has passed away at the age of 93 in Phoenix. The court confirmed that her death resulted from complications associated with advanced dementia, likely Alzheimer’s, and a respiratory illness.
Journey from El Paso to the Supreme Court
Born on March 26, 1930, in El Paso, Texas, O’Connor was raised in Arizona and overcame gender-based challenges to pursue a legal career. Graduating from Stanford Law School, she faced gender discrimination in employment, reaching out to over 40 law firms before making her mark in Washington.
Nominated by President Reagan in 1981, O’Connor made history as the first woman on the nation’s highest court. Throughout her more than two-decade tenure, she emerged as an independent voice, occasionally aligning with the liberal wing and influencing crucial court decisions.
Evolution of Stance
Initially holding a personal stance against abortion, O’Connor later authored majority opinions supporting the constitutional right to the procedure. She played a vital role in upholding affirmative action in college admissions and was part of the 5-4 majority in Bush v. Gore, which shaped George W. Bush’s presidency in 2000.
In 2018, over a decade after her retirement, O’Connor disclosed her withdrawal from public life due to a dementia diagnosis. She had revealed her retirement plans in 2005 to support her husband, who was battling Alzheimer’s disease. Her successor, Justice Samuel Alito, took her place on the Supreme Court.
O’Connor served as a source of inspiration for generations of female lawyers, particularly the five women who followed her appointment to the high court. Chief Justice John Roberts praised her as a “patriot” and a “fiercely independent champion of the rule of law” and acknowledged her persuasive support for civics education.
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