O’Connor, Sandra Day


Lovely informal photo of Justice O’Connor signed and inscribed to the Court’s retiring spokeswoman


Type:  Photograph
Description: (1930-2023) 1st female appointed to US Supreme Court (1981), on Court Sept. 21, 1981–Jan. 31, 2006. One of the “swing votes” on the Rehnquist Court in controversial affirmative action, abortion, and death penalty cases. On Feb. 22, 2005, with Rehnquist & Stevens (senior to her) absent, she presided over oral arguments in the case of Kelo v. City of New London, 1st woman to preside over an oral argument before the Court.  She most frequently sided with the Court’s conservative bloc. She often wrote concurring opinions that limited the reach of the majority holding. Her majority opinions in landmark cases include Grutter v. Bollinger and Hamdi v. Rumsfeld. She also wrote in part the per curiam majority opinion in Bush v. Gore. and was one of 3 co-authors of the lead opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. In 2009, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor of the United States, by President Obama.

After retiring from the Court, O’Connor moved back to Phoenix, Arizona. Around 2013, O’Connor’s friends and colleagues noticed she was becoming more forgetful and less conversational. By 2017, back problems led to her needing a wheelchair and led to her moving to an assisted living facility. In October 2018, O’Connor announced her effective retirement from public life after disclosing that she had been diagnosed with early stages of Alzheimer’s-like dementia.

ISP, 9- ½ x 7 -½ informal color portrait of Justice O’Connor sitting between 2 unknown men, her right hand under her chin, mounted to 14 x 11 board, inscribed on board: “To Toni [House] who had done a great deal to explain the workings of the Court to the press and public – with appreciation – [full signature].”

Antoinette Aiello “Toni” House (1943-1998) Author, Washington journalist, US Supreme Court public information officer and “spokeswoman” 1982-98. A former president of the Washington Press Club and officer of other press organizations, Ms. House was a Washington institution even before Chief Justice Warren E. Burger hired her as press officer for an institution that often appeared to have an aversion to press coverage. As a reporter and editor for The Washington Star for 15 years, House covered the District of Columbia Police Department and local courts, one of the few women at the time to work that beat. She co-wrote “The Washington Sting” a book about an undercover police fencing operation she covered in the early 70’s. She was deputy picture editor of The Star when the paper ceased publication in 1981. As the Supreme Court’s public information officer, Ms. House was the Court’s public voice, although not, as she often stressed, its interpreter. She stated that the Court’s internal workings “…are cloaked in a security . . . possibly rivaled only by the National Security Agency or the CIA.” She finessed the line between loyalty to the justices and assistance to reporters, but was blunt with hapless reporters: “What you see is what you get. No further interpretation, explanation or illumination is forthcoming from the denizens of the Marble Temple.”

Condition: Very good

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