Sandra Day O'Connor: How the First Woman on the Supreme Court Became Its Most Influential Justice (Paperback)
“Sandra Day O’Connor takes you behind the closed doors of the Supreme Court to reveal how Justice O’Connor helped craft landmark decisions on abortion, affirmative action, and a host of other critical issues. Joan Biskupic has broken new ground in reporting on O’Connor’s life and historic role on the high court. This lively, fast-paced account will make people rethink how they view this extraordinary woman and her fellow justices. An indispensable read for anyone interested in politics, the law, and power as exercised by one of the most fascinating women of our time.” -Andrea Mitchell
Sandra Day O'Connor, America's first woman justice, became the axis on which the Supreme Court turned. She was called the most powerful woman in America, and it was often said that to gauge the direction of American law, one need look only to O'Connor's vote. Then, just one year short of a quarter century on the bench, she surprised her colleagues and the nation by announcing her retirement.
Drawing on information from once-private papers of the justices, hundreds of interviews with legal and political insiders, and the insight gained from nearly two decades of covering the Supreme Court, Joan Biskupic examines O'Connor's remarkable career, providing an in-depth account of her transformation from tentative jurist to confident architect of American law. The portrait that emerges is of a complex and multifaceted woman: lawyer, politician, legislator, and justice, as well as wife, mother, A-list society hostess, and competitive athlete. To all appearances, she was the polite lady in pearls, handbag on her arm. But in the back rooms of politics and the law, she was a determined, focused strategist. O'Connor was the feminist who, rather than rebel against the male-dominated system, worked from within -- and succeeded.
As Biskupic demonstrates, Justice O'Connor became much more than a "first." During her twenty-four-year tenure, she wrote the decisions on some of the most controversial social battles of our time. O'Connor's tie-breaking opinions on issues such as abortion rights, affirmative action, the death penalty, and religious freedom will have a lasting effect far into the future. O'Connor also cast one of the five votes that cut off the Florida recounts and allowed George W. Bush to take the White House in the 2000 contested presidential election. With an eye to the American people and a keen sense of public attitudes, she worked behind the scenes to shape the law and transform the legal standards by which future cases will be decided.
From O'Connor's isolated upbringing on the Lazy B ranch in Arizona through her time as a state legislator to her rise as a justice -- along the way confronting her own personal challenges and crises, including breast cancer -- Biskupic presents a vivid, astute depiction of the justice -- and of the woman beneath the black robe. In so doing, Sandra Day O'Connor also provides an unprecedented look inside the exclusive, famously secretive High Court.
About the Author
Joan Biskupic is CNN's Senior Supreme Court Analyst. Before joining CNN in 2017, she was an editor in charge for legal affairs at Reuters and was previously the Supreme Court correspondent for the Washington Post and for USA Today. Biskupic was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in explanatory journalism in 2015. In addition to her biography of John Roberts, The Chief: The Life and Turbulent Times of Chief Justice John Roberts, Biskupic is the author of books on Sandra Day O'Connor, Antonin Scalia, and Sonia Sotomayor. She also holds a law degree from Georgetown University.
“Sandra Day O’Connor takes you behind the closed doors of the Supreme Court to reveal how Justice O’Connor helped craft landmark decisions on abortion, affirmative action, and a host of other critical issues. Joan Biskupic has broken new ground in reporting on O’Connor’s life and historic role on the high court. This lively, fast-paced account will make people rethink how they view this extraordinary woman and her fellow justices. An indispensable read for anyone interested in politics, the law, and power as exercised by one of the most fascinating women of our time.” — Andrea Mitchell, Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent for NBC News
“If you want to know what America has lost with the retirement of Sandra Day O’Connor, the full measure of her epic story is here. Joan Biskupic reveals a backstage role for the Supreme Court justice that makes her even more influential than her controlling vote on so many 5-4 decisions. And she illuminates a personality even more engaging and intriguing than the public figure we have come to know. This is a compelling story about one of the mighty figures in the history of our times.” — David S. Broder, Columnist, The Washington Post
“This book is insightful, energetic, full of nuggets--and at times quite moving. It is wonderfully illuminating about Justice O’Connor; more than that, it may well be the best account of the contemporary Supreme Court.” — Cass R. Sunstein, Karl N. Llewellyn Distinguished Service Professor, Law School and Department of Political Science, University of Chicago
“Joan Biskupic is one of our country’s most insightful writers about the Supreme Court. Sandra Day O’Connor is one of the most consequential Supreme Court justices in American history. So this book is a blessing, an engaging, shrewd and thoughtful biography appearing at exactly the moment when Americans are coming to terms with O’Connor’s complex legacy and achievement. It will influence our view of the Court for years to come.” — E.J. Dionne Jr., author of Why Americans Hate Politics and Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution
“A lively life of the just-retired Associate Justice…. A fitting farewell to an influential jurist.” — Kirkus Reviews
“An insightful biography of perhaps the most influential associate justice in recent history…. Highly recommended.” — Library Journal
“A comprehensive narrative of O’Connor’s remarkable judicial career.” — Los Angeles Times Book Review
“A fine new biography…. Justice O’Connor is known mainly for the careful, moderate opinions that have put her at the center of a sharply divided court. But Ms. Biskupic’s book is a reminder of just how political Justice O’Connor was before she got on the court and after, and why she will be so missed when she leaves.” — New York Times
“[A] fascinating and revealing biography…. Biskupic writes clearly and without hyperbole.” — St. Petersburg Times
“An excellent account of Sandra Day O’Connor’s life and times as the first woman Supreme Court justice.” — Washington Post Blog
“A valuable window into O’Connor’s operating style.” — Roll Call
“Biskupic ... draws on once-private Court documents and hundreds of interviews to offer an absorbing portrait…. [An] illuminating biography.” — Booklist
“[A] smart book…. Brisk and thorough.” — Bloomberg News
“[A] highly readable and engaging work…. [A] powerful and persuasive account.” — Washington Post Book World