First Woman on Supreme Court: I Have Early- Stage Dementia

Sandra Day O'Connor is retreating from public life
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 23, 2018 12:46 AM CDT
Updated Oct 23, 2018 9:45 AM CDT
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In this Aug. 12, 2009, photo, President Barack Obama presents the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom to Sandra Day O'Connor.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
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(Newser) – Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman on the Supreme Court, says she has the beginning stages of dementia and "probably Alzheimer's," per the AP. O'Connor made the announcement in a letter Tuesday. She said that her diagnosis was made "some time ago" and that as her condition has progressed, she is "no longer able to participate in public life." O'Connor, 88, was nominated by President Reagan and took her seat on the court in 1981. She announced her retirement in 2005. Her announcement comes after an AP story saying that she'd decided to pull back fully from public life. For more than a decade after leaving the court in 2006, O'Connor kept up an active schedule: serving as a visiting federal appeals court judge, speaking on issues she cared about, and founding her own education organization.

But O'Connor made her last public appearances more than two years ago, and this summer she turned over an office she had kept at the Supreme Court to the court's most recently retired justice, Anthony Kennedy. Son Jay O'Connor said in a recent telephone interview that his mother, like many who reach their upper 80s, is beginning to have challenges with her short-term memory, which has made some public events more difficult. Hip issues have meant she now primarily uses a wheelchair. And she now stays close to her home in Phoenix, he said. (Last year, the O'Connor workout class had to move off Supreme Court premises after 35 years.)


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