Tribute to Justice O'Connor

January 2006

Tribute to Justice O'Connor
Type: Law review article
Author: John Paul Stevens
Source: J Sup. Ct. Hist.
Citation: 31 J Sup. Ct. Hist. 99 (2006)

Other pages in the O'Connor Institute Online Archive mentioned in this article:

John Paul StevensJustice

Article Text


The 102d Justice to serve on the Supreme Court was also the first whose name begins with the letter “O.” Knowledgeable scholars and students of the Court’s history are not likely to attach great significance to that fact. While Byron White was undoubtedly the finest athlete ever to serve on the Court, and also was an avid golfer, I am quite sure that No. 102 broke 90 more regularly than he did. I doubt that that fact will provide No. 102 with her principal claim to fame either. While a third happenstance—that she was also the first woman to serve on the Court—will be widely noted and acclaimed, in my judgment that is merely another interesting aspect of Sandra Day O’Connor’s remarkable career and remarkable contribution to the work of the Court.

I firmly believe that it is the consistent quality of excellence in her opinions that will provide the most accurate and reliable evidence for future historians who write about her work. This quality appears not only in her opinions in cases subject to significant public attention, but also in the less heralded cases that are the grist of our docket. Consider, for example, her lucid and honest opinion in Lingle v. Chevron U.S.A. Inc., 544 U.S. 528 (2005), which, if not the very best, was surely one of the best opinions announced last Term. Or her dissent in Atwater v. Lago Vista, 532 U.S. 318 (2001), with its forceful and persuasive points made in the clearest possible prose.

Having had the privilege of working with

© COPYRIGHT NOTICE: This Media Coverage / Article constitutes copyrighted material. The excerpt above is provided here for research purposes only under the terms of fair use (17 U.S.C. § 107). To view the complete original, please visit