News & Politics

Sandra Day O’Connor Lying in Repose at the Supreme Court

The public may pay their respects to the first woman on the court until 8 PM tonight.

Photograph by Evy Mages .

Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States, passed away on December 1 from complications due to dementia. She was 93. She is lying in repose in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court, where the public may pay their respects until 8 PM tonight. A private funeral will be held tomorrow, December 19, at the Washington National Cathedral.

O’Connor was born to a ranch family in El Paso, Texas, on March 26, 1930; she lived there until leaving for Stanford University at 16 years old. She began her work in politics in Arizona, but her career reached its peak in 1981 when she was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan. During her tenure, she wrote the majority opinion in the landmark 5-4 Grutter v. Bollinger case, which upheld affirmative action. She also voted in the majority of the 5-4 Planned Parenthood v. Casey case that upheld Roe v. Wade at the time, and voted with the 5-4 majority in Bush v. Gore, which ended the Florida ballot recount and decided the 2000 election in favor of George W. Bush.

She retired in 2005; Bush then nominated Samuel Alito to take her place on the court. In her retirement, O’Connor gave speeches at colleges, wrote essays for law reviews, and in 2009 founded the nonprofit Sandra Day O’Connor Institute, which has a stated mission of “[advancing] American democracy through multigenerational civics education, civil discourse, and civic engagement.”

Editorial Fellow

Hunter is a cat-loving Coloradoan who enjoys history, Halloween and board games. He studied audio production and radio storytelling at Hofstra University before moving to DC in 2022. During his editorial fellowship with Washingtonian in the fall of 2023, he ran Halloween Hunter, a section featuring local stories for the spooky season.