Published: Tue, October 23, 2018

Sandra Day O'Connor: I Have Beginning Stages Of Dementia, 'Probably Alzheimer's'

Sandra Day O'Connor: I Have Beginning Stages Of Dementia, 'Probably Alzheimer's'

"I hope that I have inspired young people about civic engagement and helped pave the pathway for women who may have faced obstacles pursuing their careers", O'Connor's letter concluded. "While the final chapter of my life with dementia may be trying", she wrote, "nothing has diminished my gratitude and deep appreciation for the countless blessings in my life". "How fortunate I feel to be an American and to have been presented with the remarkable opportunities available to the citizens of our country", she added.

O'Connor, 88, was nominated to the bench by President Ronald Reagan as the first female Supreme Court justice of the United States in 1981. During her first term on the court, she received as many as 500 letters a week, many from young girls who saw her as a role model.

"When she hit about 86 years old she decided that it was time to slow things down, that she'd accomplished most of what she set out to do in her post-retirement years, that she was getting older physically and her memory was starting to be more challenging, so the time came to dial back her public life", he said.

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This April 15, 2015 photo released by Seneca Women shows Justice Sandra Day O'Connor at the Seneca Women Global Leadership Forum at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington. She graduated third in her class in 1952 at Stanford Law School, where she met her future husband.

For almost 25 years, O'Connor was the swing vote on numerous social issues, including abortion and other polarizing topics, and her minimalist and moderate opinions placed her squarely in the middle of a sharply divided court. Then she went public about the effects of her husband's Alzheimer's disease, including his affection for another woman. Hip issues have meant she now primarily uses a wheelchair. After her 2006 retirement from the high court O'Connor had appeared around the country championing an educational organization she founded and serving as a visiting appeals court judge, among other activities.

O'Connor joined the 5-4 majority that stopped a ballot recount in Florida, ending the hotly contested 2000 presidential election in favor of Republican George W. Bush over Democrat Al Gore.

O'Connor's departure from the court and her replacement by Justice Samuel Alito moved the court to the right, and O'Connor wasn't always happy with the court's direction after she left. John O'Connor died in 2009. I'd be a little bit disappointed. "It's not always positive".

Chief Justice John Roberts said in a statement on Tuesday that he was "saddened" to learn that his fellow justice "faces the challenge of dementia".

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