Sandra Day O'Connor was battling complications of dementia (Reuters)
The first woman to serve as an officer of justice at the United States Supreme Court, Sandra Day O'Connor, died at the age of 93 in Phoenix on Friday, The New York Times reported.
Citing the US Supreme Court announcement of her death, the NYT reported that O'Connor was battling complications of dementia.
She grew up in Arizona and lived there for the better part of her life.
According to The New York Times report, very little could happen without Justice O'Connor's support when it came to the polarising issues on the court's docket, and the law regarding affirmative action, abortion, voting rights, religion, federalism, sex discrimination and other hot-button subjects was basically what Sandra Day O'Connor thought it should be.
"A daughter of the American Southwest, Sandra Day O'Connor blazed a historic trail as our Nation's first female Justice," Chief Justice John Roberts said in a statement condoling her demise.
O'Connor was appointed by Republican former President Ronald Reagan in the early 1980s, as the United States began a shift to the right and conservative groups fought to transform the country's judicial landscape in their favour.
Despite her personal conservatism, O'Connor helped reaffirm the 1973 decision Roe v Wade, which made abortion a constitutional right in the United States.
"Some of us as individuals find abortion offensive to our most basic principles of morality, but that can't control our decision," O'Connor said famously in court, reading a summary of the decision in Planned Parenthood v Casey, adding, "Our obligation is to define the liberty of all, not to mandate our own moral code."
She was also part of a majority that handed the contested 2000 election to former President George W Bush, in a controversial decision that halted a recount effort that could have reversed Bush's victory in the key state of Florida.
In a public letter she released in October 2018, at the age of 88, the former justice, who had not been seen in public for some time, announced that she had been diagnosed with the beginning stages of dementia, "probably Alzheimer's disease," and consequently was withdrawing herself from public life.
According to the NYT report, Justice O'Connor spent an active retirement, sitting as a visiting judge on federal appeals courts around the country and speaking and writing widely in support of two causes, judicial independence and civics education.
She also catered to her six grandchildren, taking them on trips and writing two children's books based on her own colourful childhood on a remote Arizona ranch.
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