Thursday, April 12, 2012

Supreme Court justices celebrate 30 years since court's first female

The HuffPo reports: The only four women to serve as Supreme Court justices gathered last night to celebrate Sandra Day O'Connor's pathbreaking arrival on the bench three decades ago.

O'Connor, who retired in January 2006, was joined at the Newseum by sitting justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan for a wide-ranging panel discussion extending from the impact of O'Connor's nomination on the other three women to the state of the court today.

President Ronald Reagan, fulfilling a campaign promise, nominated O'Connor in July 1981, when she was serving in relative obscurity as a state judge on an intermediate appeals court in Arizona. The Senate unanimously confirmed her nomination that September.

"It's all right to be the first to do something, but I certainly didn't want to be the last woman on the Supreme Court," O'Connor said, reflecting on the responsibility she felt as the lone representative of her sex among the nine justices.

Of course, she was not the last woman, and the other three justices on stage recalled where they were when they heard the news that O'Connor, now 82, broke the court's glass ceiling.

"It was a moment that one of those few in life where you remember exactly where you were and how you felt," said Ginsburg, who had established herself by the 1970s as the premiere champion of gender equality in cases before the Supreme Court. "I was driving home, turned on the news and the news was Sandra Day O'Connor," Ginsburg remembered. "I was about to cheer, but no one would hear me," she said.

Video of the discussion can be seen after the jump:

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