“A Good Judge”
31 Journal of Supreme Court History 100 (2006)
7 Pages Posted: 13 Jun 2020
Date Written: July 1, 2006
This tribute, invited by the Supreme Court Historical Society, celebrates Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the occasion of her retirement from the Court in 2006. The title of the essay is drawn from this exchange at O’Connor’s confirmation hearing on January 31, 1981:
Senator BAUCUS. . . . How do you want to be remembered in history?
Judge O'CONNOR. The tombstone question—what do I want on
the tombstone? [Laughter.]
Senator BAUCUS. Hopefully it will be written in places other than
on a tombstone.
Judge O'CONNOR. I hope it might say, "Here lies a good judge."
Sandra Day O’Connor will get her wish. For almost a quarter of a century, on an enormous range of issues -- from affirmative action, to gender equality and opportunity, to reproductive freedom, to lawyer professionalism, to the powers of government in time of war, to the place of religion in a pluralistic society, to the very structure of our federalism, and more -- when an anxious Nation awaited the Supreme Court's latest pronouncement, what it most often got was a common-sense opinion from the most reasonable voice in American law.
Despite her busy career, however, the Justice managed to balance work with family – always family first. This essay addresses that aspect of O’Connor’s good judgment on the journey through life.
The tribute is deeply personal. All of the information it contains is drawn from personal observations by members of the O’Connor family (including the author, who married in).
Keywords: Sandra Day O’Connor, Justice O’Connor, U.S. Supreme Court, first woman, confirmation, Lazy B, O’Connor family, John O’Connor, John J. O’Connor III
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