Sandra Day O'Connor
Justice in the Balance
Publication Year: 2005
Published by: University of New Mexico Press
1: The Right Woman at the Right Time
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When fifty-one-year-old Sandra Day O’Connor was summoned to a secret meeting in a Washington hotel on June 30, 1981, to meet with Attorney General William French Smith, White House counsel Fred Fielding, and White House aides Edwin Meese, James Baker, and Michael Deaver on a possible nomination to the Supreme Court, she went as much...
2: A Girl of the West
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Sandra Day O’Connor was born March 26, 1930, in Hotel Dieu Hospital in El Paso, Texas, and spent her formative years on a vast ranch straddling Arizona and New Mexico where, for eight years, she was the only child, dependent on cowboys for company and much of her early education. The ranch had no electricity or running water until she was seven.Years later...
3: No Women Need Apply
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Life at Stanford University at age seventeen for Sandra Day O’Connor was heady. Always hungry for knowledge and new experiences and challenges, she was thrilled at the intellectual life, the social life, the professors, the freedom. Unlike some eastern colleges, which specialized in turning out young women for marriage, Stanford was a co-ed that treated...
4: Shall We Call You Madam Justice?
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William Rehnquist, in his book The Supreme Court, noted that when the Court first began to hand down written opinions in the last decade of the eighteenth century, the author of each opinion was designated, for example, “Cushing, Justice.” This form continued until the February 1820, term, when it was replaced by the...
5: Behind Closed Doors
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The nine justices may look remote and untouchable in their black robes and carefully phrased, nuanced, and sometimes robust questioning of lawyers during oral arguments. But the Rehnquist/ O’Connor Court was what lawyers like to refer to as a “hot bench”—the justices like the jousting. During oral arguments, they were invariably predictable. Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who tolerated no aberrant...
6: Party Animal
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Sandra Day O’Connor and her husband, John, quickly made themselves at home on the social circuit when they moved to the nation’s capital. Their names studded the local papers because of their frequent attendance at charity balls and cocktail parties. Those who met the new Supreme Court justice in person for the first time were invariably...
7: The “A” Word
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Shortly after Sandra Day O’Connor was confirmed in 1981, Senator Charles E. Grassley, a conservative Republican from Iowa staunchly opposed to legalized abortion, was meeting with President Reagan on the sale of fighter planes to Saudi Arabia. Grassley stunned Senate colleagues by breaching protocol to take Reagan aside and demand to know if...
8: Capital Controversy
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Nearly as controversial as abortion is the Court’s evolving position on the death penalty, and capital punishment is one of the clearest examples of how O’Connor’s views evolved. The longer she sat on the Supreme Court, the more O’Connor began dismaying her conservative friends and colleagues by her belief that the death penalty is flawed....
9: Affirming America
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The normally staid Supreme Court was the locus of a buzz of excitement on April 1, 2003. After months of nationwide debate, the nine justices were holding a two-hour session for oral arguments, instead of the far more common one-hour debate, to hear the pros and cons...
10: No Dearth of Opinions
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No look at Sandra Day O’Connor’s long and interesting life would be complete without an effort to understand the significance of her role in the lives of millions of Americans beyond her controversial decisions on abortion, the death penalty, and the election...
11: And the Winner Is . . .
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For many Americans, their first conscious thoughts of the Supreme Court in a long time came in the aftermath of the 2000 presidential election. For weeks, the country didn’t know who the winner was—Al Gore, who had won the popular vote, or George W. Bush, who seemed to have won the electoral vote in Florida and thus the election. Or...
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Throughout her long tenure on the Court, O’Connor has been a beacon of inspiration to millions of women, a trailblazer honored by young and old, whether because of her bout with breast cancer in 1988 or curiosity about how she does her job.Her name is consistently on...
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On Thursday, June 30, 2005, the White House counsel, Harriet Miers, received a phone call from the Supreme Court’s head marshal, Pamela Talkin, saying that a letter would be hand-delivered to President George W. Bush the following morning. Miers rushed to tell Bush and Vice President Cheney, who were having their usual Thursday lunch together. Speculation buzzed around the West Wing—Chief Justice...
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Page Count: 232
Illustrations: 1 halftone
Publication Year: 2005
Series Title: Women's Biography Series
Series Editor Byline: Series Editors: Kristie Miller, Melanie S. Gustafson, and Pamela Reeves