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SANDRA DAY O’CONNOR RETIRES
First Female Supreme Court Justice Held a Key Vote on Major Issues
BY MOLLY McDONOUGH @ ABANET.ORG

Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court and a key swing vote, announced Friday she is retiring.

O’Connor, 75, said she will leave the bench once her successor is named and confirmed.

"It has been a great privilege, indeed, to have served as a member of the court for 24 terms," O’Connor said in a letter to President Bush. "I will leave it with enormous respect for the integrity of the court and its role under our constitutional structure."

The president accepted her resignation Friday, saluted her years of service and promised to name a worthy successor.

"Throughout her tenure, she has been a discerning and conscientious judge, and a public servant of complete integrity," Bush said in a special morning briefing in the Rose Garden. "Justice O’Connor’s great intellect, wisdom and personal decency have won her the esteem of her colleagues and our country."

Nominated by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, O’Connor has cowgirl roots, having grown up on a ranch in rural southeast Arizona. O’Connor is a Stanford Law School graduate who later became an Arizona assistant attorney general. She entered politics in 1969 by filling a vacancy in the Arizona Senate, and she was later elected to the bench in 1975 as a superior court judge. She was serving as a member of the Arizona Court of Appeals when Reagan tapped her for the high court.

ABA President Robert J. Grey Jr. praised O’Connor.

"The American Bar Association is profoundly grateful to Justice Sandra Day O’Connor for her service to the nation as associate justice of the Supreme Court, for her dedication to justice, and for her commitment to our courts and juries, as demonstrated by her leadership as the honorary chair of the ABA Commission on the American Jury," Grey said in a statement. "Our nation, and in fact the world, have been improved by Justice O’Connor’s contributions. We may all draw inspiration from her example."

Bush said he has directed his staff, in cooperation with the Department of Justice, to compile information and recommend potential nominees for O’Connor’s seat.

"The nation deserves, and I will select, a Supreme Court justice that Americans can be proud of," Bush said. "The nation also deserves a dignified process of confirmation in the United States Senate, characterized by fair treatment, a fair hearing and a fair vote. I will choose a nominee in a timely manner so that the hearing and the vote can be completed before the new Supreme Court term begins."

Look for more of the ABA Journal’s reporting on the U.S. Supreme Court in transition in next week’s eReport.


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