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'Fiercely Independent Defender Of The Rule Of Law' Sandra Day O’Connor Dies At 93  

Retired U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman to serve on the nation’s highest court, was praised for her independence, commitment to the rule of law and advocacy for civic education after her Friday, Dec. 1 passing.

supreme court 544218 640smallO’Connor was appointed to the bench in 1981 by then-President Ronald Reagan and retired in 2006. An announcement from the Court indicated the 93-year-old trailblazer died in Phoenix from complications related to dementia, a respiratory illness and possibly Alzheimer’s.

“A daughter of the American Southwest, Sandra Day O’Connor blazed an historic trail as our Nation’s first female Justice. She met that challenge with undaunted determination, indisputable ability, and engaging candor,” said Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. in a statement. “We at the Supreme Court mourn the loss of a beloved colleague, a fiercely independent defender of the rule of law, and an eloquent advocate for civics education. And we celebrate her enduring legacy as a true public servant and patriot.”

O’Connor, a Stanford Law graduate, published five books during her career including her most recent work, Out of Order: Stories from the History of the Supreme Court, which was released in 2013. She also founded the well-regarded education platform iCivics, reads information from the announcement.

From X (formerly Twitter)

US Capitol Historical Society @CapitolHistory ·Dec 1

"Our thoughts are with Sandra Day O’Connor’s family. In her last public remarks, she said: 'If we want our democracy to thrive, we must commit to educating our youth about civics' and helping them 'understand their crucial role as informed, active citizens in their communities.'”

President Joe Biden also heaped praise on the late O’Connor for the objectivity and pragmatism she brought to the Court. “Justice Sandra Day O’Connor … spent her career committed to the stable center, pragmatic and in search of common ground. I did not agree with all of her opinions, but I admired her decency and unwavering devotion to the facts, to our country, to active citizenship and the common good,” read Biden’s statement. “Defined by her no-nonsense Arizona ranch roots, Justice O’Connor overcame discrimination early on, at a time when law firms too often told women to seek work as secretaries, not attorneys.”

Biden also pointed to O’Connor’s dedication to her work and her family in his remarks, noting she left the nation’s highest court to care for her ailing husband, John. “She knew that for democracy to work, we have to listen to each other, and remember how much more we all have in common as Americans than what keeps us apart,” he added. “Our hearts today are with Justice O’Connor’s three sons, Scott, Brian, and Jay; her brother, Alan; her six grandchildren; and all those who loved her.”

From X (formerly Twitter)

Sen. Lisa Murkowski @lisamurkowski ·Dec 1

"Sandra Day O’Connor was more than a brilliant legal mind, more than the first woman on the United States Supreme Court – she was an inspiration who impacted an entire generation of young women who saw that it was possible to serve our country in the highest office."

American Bar Association President Mary Smith said O’Connor’s legacy extends “far beyond” being named as the first female justice to the Supreme Court.

“In addition to her many accomplishments, O’Connor was a great friend to the American Bar Association in which she remained active, after her retirement from the high court, working as a tireless advocate for judicial independence and the Rule of Law throughout the world.”

Smith noted several landmark rulings penned by O’Connor including Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, which “reaffirmed the core holding of Roe v. Wade.” She also wrote the Hamdi v. Rumsfeld opinion rejecting the government’s claim it could shirk due process while holding detainees in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

From X (formerly Twitter)

Condoleezza Rice @CondoleezzaRice ·Dec 1

"Remembering today the legacy left by the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court, Sandra Day O’Connor. She was a @Stanford alumna and spent her post-court years advocating for civics education. She was an important trailblazer in the American story and a friend. Rest in Peace."

The Supreme Court also announced O’Connor will “lie in repose” on Monday, Dec. 18, in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court of the United States. The public will be allowed to pay respects beginning at 10:30 a.m. after a private ceremony hosted by the Court starting an hour earlier.

A private service is scheduled for the next day at the National Cathedral, and the late justice’s family has asked for donations to icivics.org in lieu of flowers.

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