Judge Sandra Day O’Connor Honored as “American Pioneer” at Funeral

Washington – Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court, was honored at her funeral on Tuesday as a justice who broke down gender barriers for women in the legal profession and served as a role model for millions.

O’Connor Died December 1 in Phoenix At the age of 93. Until his retirement in 2006, O’Connor was the ideological centerpiece of the Supreme Court for more than two decades, casting the deciding votes in dozens of cases.

Nine justices and retired Justice Anthony Kennedy attended Tuesday’s ceremony at the National Cathedral in Washington. President Biden and Chief Justice John Roberts were among those who praised the late justice.

“Her principles are profound and of the highest order, and it is not necessary to agree with all her conclusions to recognize that her desire for civilization is genuine and her belief in the ability of human institutions to change life for the better. Adhered to,” the president said in his remarks. “How she embodied such traits under such pressure and scrutiny helped to empower generations of women in every area of ‚Äč‚ÄčAmerican life.”

Mr. was in the Senate for more than 30 years before becoming the Vice President. Biden recalled taking O’Connor’s nomination to the Supreme Court when he was the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“A man for all ages that we saw in that trial, Americans and the world should see through his extraordinary service as a justice and, I might add, as a citizen,” the president said, adding that O’Connor broke “barriers in the legal and political worlds and the consciousness of the nation.”

“God bless American pioneer Sandra Day O’Connor,” she concluded.

Dec. 19, 2023 President Biden attends a memorial service for former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor at the National Cathedral in Washington.

MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images


Roberts, who briefly served on the court following O’Connor’s appointment in 2005, said the barriers broken by O’Connor are “almost unthinkable today.”

“That distance is a measure of time, but it is a measure of Justice O’Connor’s life and work. In nearly a quarter of a century on the court, he was a formidable, influential and iconic judge,” Roberts said. “His leadership shaped the legal profession, making it clear that judges were both women and men. The time when women weren’t on the bench seemed far away, because Judge O’Connor was so good when she was on the bench.”

The chief justice acknowledged the obstacles O’Connor faced, from struggling to land a job after law school to setting a precedent as first lady of the high court, battling cancer and raising a family, to proving “excellent” as a Supreme Court justice.

“This and more, she had to do, and she did it,” he said.

Roberts was originally selected to replace O’Connor on the bench, but ultimately succeeded Chief Justice William Rehnquist following his death in 2005.

The first woman in the Supreme Court

Nominated to the Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan and confirmed unanimously by the Senate, O’Connor is the first female justice in the court’s 191-year history. More than four decades after her historic confirmation, four women now sit on the Supreme Court.

He spent much of his 24-year tenure at the center of the court and was an important swing voter in divisive cases, particularly those related to abortion. In 1991, O’Connor, with Kennedy and Justice David Souter, ruled in Roe v. Wade wrote the majority opinion in the case that reaffirmed the right to abortion. In 2003, he wrote the majority opinion in a case allowing the narrow use of race in university admissions decisions.

More than 15 years after O’Connor left the Supreme Court, the court’s conservative justices now hold a 6-3 majority. Overturn the roe And Complete racially sensitive admissions programs. The majority opinion striking down the constitutional right to abortion was written by Justice Samuel Alito, who replaced O’Connor on the high court.

Born in 1930, O’Connor grew up in southeastern Arizona on his family’s cattle ranch known as “Lazy B.” He graduated third in his class from Stanford Law, two spots behind his future Supreme Court colleague, Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

O’Connor met her husband, John Jay O’Connor, while attending law school. He died in 2009 of complications from Alzheimer’s disease.

Before joining the Supreme Court, O’Connor served in the Arizona State Senate and became the first woman to serve in any state senate after becoming majority leader of that chamber. He began his career in the judiciary in 1974, when he was elected to the Maricopa County Superior Court and later as a judge on the Arizona Court of Appeals.

O’Connor retired from the Supreme Court in 2006 at the age of 75 to care for her husband after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. But after leaving the bench, he became an advocate for civics education and founded the iCivics group in 2009.

President Barack Obama presented O’Connor with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, in 2009. He died of complications related to advanced dementia and respiratory disease.


Sandra Day O’Connor | 60 minute archive

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