Statement on the death of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor

Brandeis School of Law Dean Melanie B. Jacobs on Justice O'Connor's legacy
Statement on the death of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor

Sandra Day O'Connor at the University of Louisville, receiving the Brandeis Medal for exemplary service to the legal profession.

“Our country has lost a genuine trailblazer. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor inspired a generation when she was named the first female justice of the Supreme Court in 1981. Justice O’Connor frequently said that while she was the first woman on the Court, she did not want to be the last. Not only has the Court’s membership significantly changed over the past 40 years, so too has the enrollment of women law students, the number of women lawyers, and especially the number of women law deans – including the deans of all three Kentucky law schools.

“Justice O’Connor further served as an example of fierce independence on the Court, often casting the deciding vote in some of the court’s most momentous decisions, including decisions about reproductive freedom and affirmative action. And while some criticized her for not having a consistent judicial bent, it was clear that she thoughtfully considered each case on its own merits and judged it accordingly.

“Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville was fortunate to have visits from Justice O’Connor twice during her tenure on the court. In 1992, she was named the recipient of the Brandeis Medal, the highest honor bestowed by the school to recognize extraordinary service to the legal profession. And in 2003, she returned to Brandeis Law for a forum with our students. In both, she exhibited the commitment to public service that is the legacy of our namesake, Justice Louis D. Brandeis. Our community, and especially our students, were fortunate to have the opportunity to hear from her on both occasions.

“On behalf of the Brandeis Law School, we extend condolences to her loved ones and we express thanks for her service to the Supreme Court, our nation, and our school.”