O'Connor, Sandra Day, 1930–, U.S. lawyer and associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1981–2006), b. El Paso, Tex. Graduating from Stanford law school (1952), she returned to practice in her home state of Arizona. There she was a state assistant attorney general (1965–69) and a Republican state senator (1969–74). Appointed a state judge in 1974, she was in 1979 named to the Arizona Court of Appeals. In 1981, President Reagan nominated her to the U.S. Supreme Court, where she became the first woman justice. Except in cases of sexual discrimination and states' powers under the federal system, she generally resisted judicial activism, emerging in the 1990s as a frequent swing vote between more and less conservative blocs. After leaving the Court, she served (2006) as a member of the Iraq Study Group and as a federal appeals court judge.
See her Lazy B: Growing Up on a Cattle Ranch in the American Southwest (with her brother, H. A. Day; 2001), The Majesty of the Law: Reflections of a Supreme Court Justice (2003), and Out of Order: Stories from the History of the Supreme Court (2013); biography by E. Thomas (2019); study by J. Biskupic (2005); L. Hirshman, Sisters In Law: How Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World (2015).
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