Now that Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has announced her retirement from the Supreme Court, all the major newspapers will start whipping out the "SOC career retrospective" pieces that they've had in the can for the longest time. These judicial profiles will conduct detailed, thorough reviews of Justice O'Connor's jurisprudence. These bios will survey, in respectful and academic fashion, the key opinions that she has authored -- and the key votes that she has cast -- in such areas as abortion, affirmative action, and federalism.
But really, who wants to read about about Planned Parenthood v. Casey for the ten-billionth time -- or Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority, for the "any"-th time? So here are ten fun facts about Justice O'Connor, drawn largely from prior UTR posts, of a personal rather than professional nature:
1. Justice O'Connor is a dedicated aerobiciser, known to lead interested female law clerks in morning aerobics sessions at the Supreme Court gym (home of the basketball court called "the highest court in the land"). Unfortunately, at least in recent years, SOC hasn't been as vigorous an exerciser as she used to be. According to one former clerk:
I hardly went [to Justice O'Connor's aerobics lessons], because once you went to a few sessions, you were expected to be there all the time. The work-outs were pretty half-hearted. If I went to her aerobics session in the morning, I'd need to work out all over again, later in the day!
2. Even if she may not break a sweat much these days, Justice O'Connor is willing to watch others do so (and we're not talking about her law clerks). Last year, she was spotted watching the Phoenix Suns, in a home game against the Utah Jazz.
3. She is a multimillionaire (see item #3) -- and a smart, sophisticated investor, with well-diversified holdings.
4. Despite her vast wealth, she has been spotted dining at the Olive Garden (see item #3).
5. But her culinary tastes do extend to more high-end fare. At a recent Kennedy Center benefit, she was seen eating caviar and quail (see item #1). When she recently invited a few House Republicans to a private lunch at the Supreme Court, in a gracious effort to improve relations between the legislative and judicial branches, she served "a salad sprinkled with walnuts." Yum!
6. After finishing her undergraduate studies at Stanford, Justice O'Connor breezed through Stanford Law School in only two years. She served on the Stanford Law Review and was a member of the Order of the Coif, naturalment. She graduated third in her class -- not far behind Chief Justice Rehnquist, who graduated first in the class. In fact, she and Chief Justice Rehnquist dated briefly -- before SOC met her husband, John Jay O'Connor, also a Stanford Law grad. (In explaining her decision to retire, Justice O'Connor cited her "need to spend time" with her ill husband, who is suffering from Alzheimer's disease. The O'Connors have three sons: Scott, Brian, and Jay.)
7. Despite her amazing law school record, Justice O'Connor found it tough to find a job in the then-male-dominated legal world. As noted in her Oyez Project biography, "O'Connor faced a difficult job market after leaving Stanford. No law firm in California wanted to hire her and only one offered her a position as a legal secretary."
Well, she sure showed them! In September 1981, after a distinguished and diversified legal career -- which included a few years as an Arizona state legislator (and senate majority leader), followed by service as a non-icky state court judge -- SOC was unanimously confirmed as the first female justice of the Supreme Court.
8. Rumor has it that SOC put her house on the market last Friday. Does anyone have a link to the listing? It sounds like a perfect candidate for UTR Cribs: Inside the Homes of Federal Judges. And will Justice O'Connor hold an open house, like former Attorney General John Ashcroft did when selling his million-dollar manse?
9. Justice O'Connor's Washington residence, which A3G suspects to be quite luxurious, is surely a far cry from the spartan ranch where SOC spent her childhood. Here's an enlightening excerpt from her Oyez Project bio:
Sandra Day O'Connor was born March 26, 1930, in El Paso, Texas. Her parents, Harry and Ada Mae, owned the Lazy-B-Cattle Ranch in southeastern Arizona, where O'Connor grew up. O'Connor experienced a difficult life on the ranch in her early childhood. The ranch itself did not receive electricity or running water until she was seven. Since their nearest neighbors lived 25 miles away, the family spent their days mostly in isolation. Her younger brother and sister were not born until she herself was eight years old, leaving her to spend many years as an only child. To compensate for the loneliness, she befriended many of the ranch's cowboys and kept many pets, including a bobcat. O'Connor read profusely in her early years and engaged in many ranch activities. She learned to drive at age seven and could fire rifles and ride horses proficiently by the time she turned eight.
Wow! Who has the movie rights to Justice O'Connor's memoir, Lazy B: Growing Up on a Cattle Ranch in the American Southwest? And is the spunky, super-talented Dakota Fanning available to play the young Sandy Day O'Connor?
10. Because she was born on March 26, SOC is an Aries. For those of you who don't believe in astrology, check out respected astrologer Susan Miller's July 2005 forecast for those under the Aries sign (which was issued several days ago, well before the retirement announcement). Even though Justice O'Connor's resignation came as a surprise to many experienced court watchers, Miller accurately predicted Justice O'Connor's retiring from the Court, putting her house on the market, and spending more time in Arizona: "Many indicators in your chart suggest you MAY be changing your address as a result of changes on your job."
In closing, on behalf of the readership of UTR, Article Three Groupie thanks Justice O'Connor for her years of dedicated service to the Court and to our country. A3G also wishes her readers a safe and enjoyable Fourth of July weekend. Have a great holiday!