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Justice Sandra Day O'Connor to Deliver the 2009-10 Pomona College Distinguished Speakers Series Lecture

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor

Photo credit: Dane Penland, Smithsonian Institution, courtesy of the Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who was the first female justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, will deliver the 2010 Pomona College Distinguished Speakers Series Lecture on Tuesday, March 30, at 4:15 p.m., in Bridges Auditorium.

Tickets for the Distinguished Lecture will be available, at no charge, through the Bridges Box Office beginning in early March.

Justice O’Connor was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court by then Pres. Ronald Reagan in 1981 and was the only woman on the Court until the appointment of Ruth Bader Ginsberg in 1993. As an Associate Justice, O’Connor was known for approaching cases narrowly, and her case-by-case approach placed her in the political center of the court. As the court became more conservative, she was often considered the pivotal swing vote on issues such as abortion, affirmative action and religious freedom.

Since her retirement from the high court in 2006, Justice O’Connor has continued to hear cases on a part-time basis, as a substitute judge for the federal appeals courts. In this role, she had heard nearly 80 cases and written more than a dozen opinions by August 2009, according to an article Wall Street Journal. Unlike the Supreme Court, which hears only 1% of the 10,000 cases it is petitioned to hear, appellate courts take appeals from anyone who loses in federal district court. One recent decision authored by O’Connor, U.S. v. Laboy-Torres, involved the question of whether Puerto Rican courts were foreign or domestic.

In addition, Justice O’Connor has served on the Iraq Study Group that proposed an exit strategy for U.S. troops and panels reviewing policy for the national parks and the U.S. position toward the International criminal courts. She is also serving as chancellor of the College of William and Mary.

Following law school at Stanford, Justice O’Connor began her legal career as a civilian attorney for Quartermaster Market Center, Frankfurt, Germany (1954–57). She opened a private law practice in Arizona (1958-1960) and then served as an Assistant Attorney General of Arizona (1965-69). In 1969, she was appointed to the Arizona State Senate and was subsequently re-elected two more times. From 1973 to 1975, she served as Senate Majority Leader (1973-75).

Her judicial career began in 1975, with her election as judge of the Maricopa County (AZ) Superior Court, where she served until 1979, when she was appointed to the Arizona Court of Appeals by Democratic Arizona Governor Bruce Babbitt.

Justice O’Connor is the author of The Majesty of the Law: Reflections of a Supreme Court Justice (2004) and in early 2009, she launched the website, which offers interactive civics lessons to students and teachers about how government works.

On August 12, 2009, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor of the United States, by President Barack Obama.

The Distinguished Lecture Series was established with a generous gift from the Broe family. David Plouffe, Pres. Barack Obama’s campaign manager, who inaugurated the Pomona College Distinguished Lecture Series in March 2009.