Sandra Day O’Connor was a state court judge before being unanimously confirmed to the Supreme Court at the age of 51. According to CNBC, she graduated third in her class from Stanford Law School and was the first woman to lead the Arizona state senate. When she was 75, she announced her retirement from the court.
Now, over a decade after leaving the court in 2006, O’Connor has stepped back from public life. Before this decision, O’Connor stayed active, serving as a visiting federal appeals court judge and speaking on issues she was passionate about. She even founded her own education organization.
Her son, Jay O’Connor told The Associated Press that his mother began to struggle with short-term memory loss. She also struggles with hip issues that put her in a wheelchair.
“When she hit about 86 years old she decided that it was time to slow things down, that she’d accomplished most of what she set out to do in her post-retirement years, that she was getting older physically and her memory was starting to be more challenging, so the time came to dial back her public life,” O’Connor said. His mother doesn’t do interviews anymore.
O’Connor didn’t seem to be very happy with the court’s more conservative direction once she left. When asked about how she felt about the court undoing rulings she helped to shape, she responded, “What would you feel? I’d be a little bit disappointed. If you think you’ve been helpful, and then its dismantled, you think ‘Oh dear.’ But life goes on. It’s not always positive.”
One of the last public comments O’Connor made was in 2016 after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death. O’Connor was asked what she thought about Republican senators’ argument that the conservative justice’s seat should not be filled by President Obama but by his successor because this occurred in a presidential election year.
“I think we need somebody there, now, to do the job, and let’s get on with it,” she said.
There are now three women on the Supreme Court, and O’Connor made it known that she supports this. “It’s all right to be the first to do something, but I didn’t want to be the last woman on the Supreme Court,” she said.
Do you think O’Connor’s dementia played a big role in her withdrawal from public life? Read more about this story on CNBC here.