Supreme Court Justice to retire

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  1. kartaron

    kartaron Hunter / Gatherer

    Dec 19, 2003
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    Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, nominated as the first woman on the Supreme Court 24 years ago and a key swing vote throughout her term, announced her retirement today. Her appointment to the Supreme Court in 1981 ended the Court's 191 years as an exclusively male institution.

    O'Connor, 75, came up as a graduate of Stanford law and judge in the Arizona Court of Appeals. With the retirement of Justice Potter Stewart in 1981, Ronald Reagan kept a campaign promise of nominating a woman to the Supreme Court for the first time in U.S. history, as TIME noted in a cover story, "The Brethren's First Sister". She was confirmed 99-0 in the Senate and took her seat on the Court in a wave of celebration ("A New Order in the Court", 1981).

    Though she had been nominated by a Republican president, O'Connor did not always hold the conservative line in Supreme Court decisions. She had a reputation of approaching each decision on a case-by-case basis, rather than through a sweeping judicial philosophy (see "Establishing Her Independence", 1986). She was the critical swing vote in upholding Roe v. Wade in the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision, but voted to end the presidential ballot recount in 2000's Bush v. Gore.

    But no matter whom Bush picks -- given the partisan air that has characterized Capitol Hill with the recent nominations of John Bolton and others to high positions like Ambassador to the United Nations and several other appellate judicial picks -- a fight is likely to ensue.

    "The nation deserves and I will select a Supreme Court justice that Americans can be proud of," Bush said in brief remarks in the White House Rose Garden Friday in announcing O'Connor's retirement. "I take this responsibility seriously. I will be deliberate and thorough in this process."

    The White House said there will [not be an] announcement until at least after Bush returns from the G8 meeting in Scotland next Friday. Bush said he would consult with the Senate on any potential names.