Justice Sandra Day O’Connor Memorialized by Biden, Chief Justice

Sam Dorman
By Sam Dorman
December 19, 2023Supreme Court
Justice Sandra Day O’Connor Memorialized by Biden, Chief Justice
President Joe Biden (R) looks on as the casket is removed during a memorial service for former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor at the National Cathedral in Washington on Dec. 19, 2023. (Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images)

U.S. leaders and others offered high praise for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, at her funeral in Washington, on Dec. 19.

At the National Cathedral, President Joe Biden and Chief Justice John Roberts both underscored how Justice O’Connor broke barriers as she took her place on the nation’s highest court.

“Gracious and wise, civil and principled, Sandra Day O’Connor, daughter of the American West, was a pioneer in her own right,” said President Biden. He recalled how he was the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1981 when it considered her nomination to the Supreme Court.

As someone who held elective office serving in the Arizona senate, Justice O’Connor was “especially conscious of the law’s real impact on people’s lives,” he said.

“One need not agree with all her decisions in order to recognize that her principles were deeply held and of the highest order.”

President Biden went on to praise Justice O’Connor for empowering “generations of women” and proving “that a woman can not only do anything a man can do, but many times do it a hell of a lot—a heck of a lot—better, excuse my language.”

Joe Biden
President Joe Biden speaks during a memorial service for former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor at the National Cathedral in Washington on Dec. 19, 2023. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

Justice O’Connor voted on high-profile cases like Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

Chief Justice Roberts Remembers His Former Colleague

Chief Justice Roberts recalled 42 years ago when he worked at the Justice Department. For a brief period, he was able to serve alongside her on the court where, he said, she focused on getting things accomplished and offered pointed questions during oral argument.

“When she had a challenge or responsibility before her, her approach was simple and direct—get it done,” he said. “In nearly a quarter century on the court, she was a strong, influential, and iconic jurist.

“Her leadership shaped the legal profession, making it obvious that judges are both women and men.”

“The time when women were not on the bench seems so far away because Justice O’Connor was so good when she was on the bench. She was so successful that the barriers she broke down are almost unthinkable today,” said Justice Roberts.

John Roberts
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts speaks during a memorial service for former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor at the National Cathedral in Washington on Dec. 19, 2023. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

After her death, he offered a statement saying she had “changed the world.”

Historian Evan Thomas followed President Biden in eulogizing Justice O’Connor.

He noted how Justice O’Connor read scripture in the Bethlehem Chapel of the National Cathedral.

“But her temple, you might say, was the white marble building on First Street NE [the Supreme Court].”

Alluding to her nomination process, he said, “Millions watched a handsome, self-possessed woman with a gap-toothed smile disarm the senators—all of them male.”

Last was the justice’s youngest son, Jay O’Connor, who offered remembrances and personal details about his mother’s life, describing it as busy and full of activity.

Their comments were just the latest high praise for the justice.

Sandra Day O'Connor
Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor smiles as she attends a discussion at Renaissance Mayflower Hotel in Washington on March 8, 2004. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

During a private ceremony, Justice Sonia Sotomayor remembered Justice O’Connor as “a truly remarkable person” who “was devoted to making a better world, and that’s what she did.”

Justice Sotomayor had worked alongside Justice O’Connor’s son on the board of iCivics, which provides online games and lesson plans related to civics. During his remarks, Jay O’Connor said that while Justice O’Connor had received high marks in school, she got a “scarlet B” during one of her trimesters in civics. Prompting applause, he went on to ask the justices whether since being in school, her activities had earned her enough extra credit to overcome the B she received.

The other associate justices released statements praising O’Connor.

“I was nine years old when Justice O’Connor was appointed to the Supreme Court. I remember being awestruck by her example of what was possible: she had a job previously unattainable by women, and a family besides,” said Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

“My admiration grew when, as an adult, I began to appreciate what it took to occupy her place in history … Because of her indomitable spirit, she made the job uniquely hers. Sandra Day O’Connor was the perfect trailblazer. I am grateful not only for the doors she opened but for the style with which she walked through them.”

Justice Samuel Alito, who took Justice O’Connor’s seat on the court, said: “I will never forget the electric atmosphere in the Court at her investiture in September of 1981 when I was beginning my time in the Solicitor General’s office. During her long service, she met the challenges of her pioneering role with great acumen, aplomb, dignity, and a collegial spirit. She was an inspiration for many.”

Justice O’Connor’s death, on Dec. 1, came nearly two decades after she retired in 2006 following a long tenure on the court. On Dec. 18, she lay in repose in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court.

From The Epoch Times

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