Sandra O’Connor, 88, Was A Trailblazer: WaPo

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor announces she has been diagnosed with dementia

| Washington (CNN) – Retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor revealed in a letter on Tuesday that she has been diagnosed with the “beginning stages of dementia, probably Alzheimer’s disease.”

“I will continue living in Phoenix, Arizona surrounded by dear friends and family,” she wrote and added, “While the final chapter of my life with dementia may be trying, nothing has diminished my gratitude and deep appreciation for the countless blessings of my life.”

Chief Justice John Roberts praised O’Connor in a statement Tuesday as a “towering figure” and a “role model not only for girls and women, but for all those committed to equal justice under law.”

O’Connor, 88, was nominated to the bench by President Ronald Reagan as the first female Supreme Court justice of the United States in 1981. She retired from the bench in 2006, in part to care for her husband, who was ailing from Alzheimer’s.

In her retirement, she became an advocate for Alzheimer’s disease as well as launching iCivics, a website dedicated to encouraging young people to learn civics.

In her letter, O’Connor also announced that she will be stepping away from public life and her leadership role with iCivics in light of her physical condition.

“It is time for new leaders to make civic learning and civic engagement a reality for all,” she wrote, adding, “I hope that I have inspired young people about civic engagement and helped pave the pathway for women who may have faced obstacles pursuing their careers.

The letter was released by the court’s Public Information Officer. O’Connor signed it at the bottom writing “God Bless you all.” Read more. 


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She was a level-headed justice. But when it mattered most, she chose party over country.

Linda Hirshman, Washington Post | OPINION – This week, retired justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman on the Supreme Court, announced that her dementia is so advanced that she can no longer continue in public life.

O’Connor’s was a heroic story, complete with cowboys and horses. But the heroine flinched as the clock touched high noon.

In 2000, she cast the critical fifth vote to stop the recount and ensure a GOP presidency in Bush v. Gore. Her legacy is forever tainted by the consequences of that decision.

Like so many Republican women, including the current six U.S. senators and many of the 47 to 53 percent of white women (the polling numbers are disputed) who supported Donald Trump in 2016, O’Connor was a moderately conservative, married, middle-class person who believed that all doors would be opened to those who worked and didn’t let anything bother them.

In her very first vote on the court, she broke a 4-4 tie to hold that public universities could not discriminate on the grounds of sex. The Mississippi University for Women would just have to admit men.

In 1986, she cast another crucial tie-breaking vote, this time to let employers off the hook if supervisors harassed their female underlings for sex. All employers had to do was provide women employees with a process for complaining. If they had a human resources department, she thought, women like her were going to be all right.

Women were entitled to abortion rights, she ruled, but states could place any burden on the exercise of that right, as long as it was not “undue.” Only the sensible O’Connor knew exactly where the right balance of burdens should be drawn. Strong, determined women like her could bear almost any burden en route to getting their abortion rights …

But by 2000, she was already a dinosaur … Read more. 


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