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Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, in black and white half portrait, stands behind a table, leafing through a large book, with a painted portait of a judge behind her
Sandra Day O'Connor. Photo: Nancy Lee Katz.

Sandra Day O’Connor Papers Now Open for Research

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A major portion of the papers of Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, consisting of approximately 600 containers, opened for research use this week.

Housed in the Manuscript Division, the collection documents the trajectory of O’Connor’s life in politics and law in Arizona and, later, as the U.S. Supreme Court’s first woman justice.

Appointed to the court in 1981, O’Connor served until retiring in early 2006. The case files in the collection document her role as the court’s crucial deciding vote. To varying degrees, they also capture the internal workings of her chambers as well as discussions among her eight peers in determining the constitutionality of the nation’s laws. In addition, the collection chronicles O’Connor’s rise in Arizona state politics as a legislator and judge and her ascension to the national stage.

O’Connor donated her papers to the Library in 1990 and they arrived in installments from 1991 to 2008. The papers join those of more than three dozen other justices and chief justices of the Supreme Court available for research at the Library, including John Marshall, Thurgood Marshall, Hugo Black, Earl Warren, Harry A. Blackmun, William J. Brennan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and John Paul Stevens.

While serving more than two decades on the court, O’Connor participated in numerous significant decisions on issues ranging from the First Amendment in Lynch v. Donnelly (1983) and Wallace v. Jaffree (1984) to abortion rights in City of Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health (1982), Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) and Webster v. Reproductive Health Services (1989).

Considered the swing vote on the court, O’Connor was often at the center of many cases when she did not author a majority opinion or dissent.

At this time, the case files and docket sheets are open to researchers through the October 1990 term. Access to cases heard by the court from the 1991 through the 2005 terms remains closed to researchers as long as any justice who participated in the decision of a case continues to serve on the Supreme Court.

Other material open to researchers from her tenure as a justice includes correspondence, administrative files relating to her nomination, speeches and writings by O’Connor. Also open for research are files relating to her political and judicial career in Arizona, book manuscripts and other writings and selected family papers.

O’Connor was born in El Paso, Texas, in 1930. Growing up in Arizona, O’Connor attended Stanford University for both undergraduate and law school. After law school, she served as the first deputy county attorney in San Mateo, California, then as assistant attorney general for the state of Arizona. She entered politics as a state legislator, rising to the position of majority leader in the Arizona state senate.

After retiring from the state senate, O’Connor was appointed to Arizona’s superior and appellate courts. President Ronald Reagan appointed her to the Supreme Court in 1981.

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  1. Como mujer y Madre y esposa hija, consideron toda las mujeres tenemos voz y vote para se participante de la liberation. De abuso tanto emotional, Fisico. Economics. Medicaments de abuse. Abuso por la trabajadora social. Y persona que no son capace mantener una vida Sana. Y prospera. Agradesco Sandra day O’Connor ser una lider.

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