Retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman on the Supreme Court, has died at age 93

Retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was appointed by former President Ronald Reagan in 1981.

Associated Press

Dec 1, 2023, 3:14 PM

Updated 231 days ago

Share:

Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, an unwavering voice of moderate conservatism and the first woman to serve on the nation’s highest court, has died. She was 93.
The court says she died in Phoenix on Friday, of complications related to advanced dementia and a respiratory illness.
In 2018, she announced that she had been diagnosed with “the beginning stages of dementia, probably Alzheimer’s disease.” Her husband, John O’Connor, died of complications of Alzheimer’s in 2009.
O’Connor’s nomination in 1981 by President Ronald Reagan and subsequent confirmation by the Senate ended 191 years of male exclusivity on the high court. A native of Arizona who grew up on her family’s sprawling ranch, O’Connor wasted little time building a reputation as a hard worker who wielded considerable political clout on the nine-member court.
The granddaughter of a pioneer who traveled west from Vermont and founded the family ranch some three decades before Arizona became a state, O’Connor had a tenacious, independent spirit that came naturally. As a child growing up in the remote outback, she learned early to ride horses, round up cattle and drive trucks and tractors.
“I didn’t do all the things the boys did,” she said in a 1981 Time magazine interview, “but I fixed windmills and repaired fences.”
On the bench, her influence could best be seen, and her legal thinking most closely scrutinized, in the court’s rulings on abortion, perhaps the most contentious and divisive issue the justices faced. O’Connor balked at letting states outlaw most abortions, refusing in 1989 to join four other justices who were ready to reverse the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that said women have a constitutional right to abortion.
Then, in 1992, she helped forge and lead a five-justice majority that reaffirmed the core holding of the 1973 ruling. “Some of us as individuals find abortion offensive to our most basic principles of morality, but that can’t control our decision," O’Connor said in court, reading a summary of the decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. “Our obligation is to define the liberty of all, not to mandate our own moral code.”
Thirty years after that decision, a more conservative court did overturn Roe and Casey, and the opinion was written by the man who took her high court seat, Justice Samuel Alito. He joined the court upon O’Connor’s retirement in 2006, chosen by President George W. Bush.
In 2000, O’Connor was part of the 5-4 majority that effectively resolved the disputed 2000 presidential election in favor of Bush, over Democrat Al Gore.
O’Connor was regarded with great fondness by many of her colleagues. When she retired, Justice Clarence Thomas, a consistent conservative, called her “an outstanding colleague, civil in dissent and gracious when in the majority.”
She could, nonetheless, express her views tartly. In one of her final actions as a justice, a dissent to a 5-4 ruling to allow local governments to condemn and seize personal property to allow private developers to build shopping plazas, office buildings and other facilities, she warned the majority had unwisely ceded yet more power to the powerful. “The specter of condemnation hangs over all property,” O’Connor wrote. “Nothing is to prevent the state from replacing ... any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory.”
O’Connor, whom commentators had once called the nation’s most powerful woman, remained the court’s only woman until 1993, when, much to O’Connor’s delight and relief, President Bill Clinton nominated Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The current court includes a record four women.


More from News 12
2:29
Long Island residents face a myriad of issues due to global tech outage

Long Island residents face a myriad of issues due to global tech outage

1:18
Warm and dry weekend ahead; storms return for middle of next week

Warm and dry weekend ahead; storms return for middle of next week

0:29
Police: Motorcyclist killed after striking NICE bus in Lynbrook

Police: Motorcyclist killed after striking NICE bus in Lynbrook

0:41
Prosecutors: Driver had BAC twice the legal limit during fatal Deer Park nail salon crash

Prosecutors: Driver had BAC twice the legal limit during fatal Deer Park nail salon crash

2:21
Massive technology outage impacts LaGuardia Airport

Massive technology outage impacts LaGuardia Airport

0:28
Police: Hauppauge crash causes fuel spill on Motor Parkway

Police: Hauppauge crash causes fuel spill on Motor Parkway

0:35
North Merrick Library hosts Pokémon event with cards, crafts and characters

North Merrick Library hosts Pokémon event with cards, crafts and characters

2:01
‘You do have shared vulnerabilities.’ Security experts explain risks associated with global IT outage

‘You do have shared vulnerabilities.’ Security experts explain risks associated with global IT outage

1:30
Students take part federal court program in Central Islip

Students take part federal court program in Central Islip

A massive tech outage is causing worldwide disruptions. Here's what we know

A massive tech outage is causing worldwide disruptions. Here's what we know

5:00
Tech expert weighs in on Microsoft outage impacts across the globe

Tech expert weighs in on Microsoft outage impacts across the globe

Northwell Health activates emergency operations center amid technology outage, NYU Langone remains open

Northwell Health activates emergency operations center amid technology outage, NYU Langone remains open

Prosecutors: Bellport woman indicted for alleged hit-and-run crash that killed volunteer firefighter

Prosecutors: Bellport woman indicted for alleged hit-and-run crash that killed volunteer firefighter

2:27
Food Truck Friday: Roxy's Ice Cream Truck

Food Truck Friday: Roxy's Ice Cream Truck

13:51
'I’m not supposed to be here tonight.' Donald Trump recounts assassination attempt

'I’m not supposed to be here tonight.' Donald Trump recounts assassination attempt

0:38
Resilient North Babylon HS grad gets 5-figure donation from restaurant’s grand opening earnings

Resilient North Babylon HS grad gets 5-figure donation from restaurant’s grand opening earnings

1:35
Jericho lawyer wins Optimum's Small Business Boost Sweepstakes

Jericho lawyer wins Optimum's Small Business Boost Sweepstakes

0:17
2 East Northport men accused of selling cocaine out of their home

2 East Northport men accused of selling cocaine out of their home

1:56
Future health care workers shadow doctors at LIJ Valley Stream Hospital

Future health care workers shadow doctors at LIJ Valley Stream Hospital

0:46
17th annual ‘Soldier Ride’ raises over $160,000

17th annual ‘Soldier Ride’ raises over $160,000