Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor revealed that she probably suffers from the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. The 88-year old explained through a letter that she would no longer be making public appearances due to the illness. O’Connor says that she was informed of the diagnosis “a while ago.”
The announcement made by O’Connor came on the heels of a report by the ABC News stating that a public appearance made by the retired Supreme Court Justice two years ago would be her last.
Jay O’Connor, the son of the retired justice, says that his mother struggles at times with her short-term memory and is forced to use a wheelchair. The younger O’Connor goes on to say that about two years ago his mother realized that it was time for her to slow down a little. He said that her health concerns, combined with the fact that she has accomplished most things she intended to in her post-retirement years, made the decision to scale back her public life an easy one.
Justice O’Connor retired in 2006 to help care for her ailing husband, John O’Connor. John also suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and died in 2009. He was 79 years of age.
O’Connor testified before a Senate committee in 2008 regarding her husband’s medical condition. She explained through her testimony that only by experiencing the disease first hand could a person understand the frustration experienced by sufferers and their families.
The announcement made by O’Connor highlighted the fact that civics learning became the main focus for her after her retirement from the Supreme Court. She also made it known that she would like to see a national initiative for civics education funded. O’Connor expressed that civic engagement and education should be available to all American citizens. She expressed a hope that the nation will commit to educating young people on these matters.
John G. Roberts, The Court’s Chief Justice, expressed sadness at the news of O’Connor’s illness. Justice Roberts also said that he was not surprised that O’Connor used the moment to further the American cause and encourage civic engagement among citizens.
Roberts commended O’Connor for breaking down barriers for women in the legal profession. He went on to say that the work of O’Connor has been a benefit to the profession and the United States as a whole. Roberts ended by saying O’Connor is a role model to all that seeks justice.