U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor dies at 93

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U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor has died at the age of 93.

O’Connor made history in 1981 by becoming the first woman to serve as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice.

We look back at her legacy with Ruth McGregor, a former Arizona Supreme Court chief justice who clerked for O’Connor from 1981 to 1982, and Scott Bales, also a former chief of the Arizona Supreme Court who clerked for O’Connor in 1984 and 1985.

Bales and McGregor both serve on the advisory board of the O’Connor Justice Prize, an organization that recognizes exemplary leadership in rule of law initiatives and honors O’Connor’s legacy.

McGregor opened the conversation by stating this day is the end of an important part of history extending back 40 years. While many of the programs O’Connor established will continue and her part in them has ended, her legacy lives on.

“It’s a sense of loss because she was such a remarkable person in many different respects. She was a model as a judge in terms of her approach to cases, her civility and the examples she set for others. She was a model of a person actively engaged as a citizen in terms of trying to promote our democracy,” Bales said. O’Connor did not just promote democracy in the U.S. but throughout the world. Her impact extended beyond the nation and her role as a U.S. judge.

Concerning her legal mindset, McGregor stated it was a pleasure to watch her analyze a case.

“She was able to see almost immediately what the central issues were, to define what was important, and then to know where to look to help her find the answers to that,” McGregor said. This is seen occasionally with lawyers or judges, but not everyone can do this, according to McGregor.

Along with her intelligence and wit, O’Connor added a sense of humility when considering cases. She believed parties should have a chance to have their views considered and that a case should be considered on its own merit, Bales said.

It is a day of sadness, McGregor said, but also an important day of remembrance concerning all the parts of O’Connor’s legacy and everything she did for the nation.

Ruth McGregor, former Arizona Supreme Court chief justice
Scott Bales, former chief of the Arizona Supreme Court

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