Sandra Day O’Connor Award


The College has established the Justice Sandra Day O’Connor Award to honor an outstanding judge for contributions to justice.

Expected to be presented annually, the award will recognize a judge or former judge who has demonstrated extraordinary service and commitment to justice as embodied in The National Judicial College’s core values of justice, excellence, innovation, integrity and leadership.

It is the College’s highest honor.

2022 Justice Sandra Day O’Connor Award
Consider nominating someone for the 2022 Justice Sandra Day O’Connor Award

In 2022, NJC will recognize a judge or former judge who has demonstrated extraordinary service and commitment to justice as embodied in NJC’s Core Values, which are: Demonstrate an Absolute Commitment to Justice; Deliver and Inspire Excellence and Innovation in One’s Work; Champion Integrity; Practice Engaged Leadership.

Deadline for nominations has been extended to April 1, 2022.

Learn more and submit a nomination

The formal announcement of the establishment of the award and of its inaugural honoree, Justice O’Connor herself, came November 11, 2021, at the Appellate Judges Education Institute Summit in Austin, Texas.

Justice O’Connor is an alumna of the NJC who enrolled in the College’s flagship course for new judges, General Jurisdiction, shortly after her election to the Superior Court of Maricopa County, Arizona, in 1974. She served on the Arizona Court of Appeals for two years starting in 1979. In 1981, President Reagan nominated her to become the first female member of the U.S. Supreme Court. She took office the same year. She retired in 2006.

In her more than 24 years on the Supreme Court, Justice O’Connor established a reputation as a pragmatist rather than someone bound by ideology. She was seen as a swing vote on many major cases, including those involving reproductive rights, legislative districting and separation of church and state.

In 2018, Justice O’Connor announced her retirement from public life after disclosing that she had been diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimer’s-like dementia.

My brothers and I are pleased that The National Judicial College is naming its top award after Mom, who was a huge fan of the College.

Scott O’Connor,

Justice O’Connor’s eldest son

At the ceremony in Austin, President Aldana read a letter from her eldest son, Scott O’Connor, in which he wrote, in part: “My brothers and I are pleased that The National Judicial College is naming its top award after Mom, who was a huge fan of the College.”

Arizona Supreme Court Vice Chief Ann Timmer accepted on Justice O’Connor’s behalf. She said Justice O’Connor has devoted her life to ensuring the public good and encouraging others do to so.

“If you ever been fortunate enough to interact with Justice O’Connor or see her speak you know that when discussing any issues that our society and particularly our justice system faces, she will look you in the eye and say, ‘What are you going to do about it, you who have the education and the wherewithal to do something?’ I’m fairly confident that if she were here today that’s what she’d be saying….

“She would also entreat you to live the morals of The National Judicial College, which are: the absolute commitment to justice, to deliver and inspire excellence and innovation in one’s work, to champion integrity, and to practice engaged leadership. These are all qualities embodied by her as a person and as a leader.…”

Inaugural presentation of the Sandra Day O’Connor Award
November 11, 2021
Austin, Texas