RENO, NV (November 10, 2021) – The National Judicial College, the nation’s oldest, largest and most widely attended school for judges, has established the Sandra Day O’Connor Award to honor an outstanding judge for contributions to justice.
The formal announcement of the establishment of the award and of the naming of its inaugural honoree, Justice O’Connor herself, will be take place later this week at a national judicial conference. (The date and location of the conference is intentionally omitted because of security concerns surrounding large gatherings of judges).
Justice O’Connor is an alumna of The National Judicial College 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. Seven years later, in 1981, President Reagan nominated her to become the first female member of the Supreme Court of the United States. She took office the same year. She retired in 2006.
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. A recorded message from her eldest son, Scott O’Connor, is expected to be played at the award ceremony. Arizona Supreme Court Vice Chief Ann A. Scott Timmer will accept the award on Justice O’Connor’s behalf.
Expected to be presented annually, the Sandra Day O’Connor Award recognizes 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.
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.
Nominations for the 2022 Sandra Day O’Connor Award will be taken in January.
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Created more than a half-century ago at the recommendation of a justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Tom C. Clark, The National Judicial College remains the only educational institution in the United States that teaches courtroom skills to judges of all types from all over the country, Indian Country and abroad. The categories of judges served by this nonprofit and nonpartisan institution, based in Reno, Nevada, since 1964, decide more than 95 percent of cases in the United States.