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NYTimes
New York Times
2 Dec 2023
Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs


NextImg:In and Out of the Courtroom, O’Connor Inspired a Generation of Women

When Laney Serface was a young girl growing up in Northern California, she pinned a news article about Sandra Day O’Connor among the ephemera of theater tickets and photographs on her bulletin board.

“She sat in one of the highest positions in our government, and that made me feel like I could, too,” said Ms. Serface, an actor in Los Angeles who has long seen Ms. O’Connor, the first woman to serve as a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, as an inspiration.

Rhesa Rubin, a lawyer in Tucson, Ariz., met Justice O’Connor in the 1990s and has kept a framed, inscribed snapshot of their meeting since then. “I’ve had the picture in every office that I have worked in,” she said, adding that sometimes she vented to the portrait about the challenges of the legal profession.

RonNell Andersen Jones, who served as one of Justice O’Connor’s clerks, recalled her boss’s stories of entrenched sexism, of graduating near the top of her law school class at Stanford University and still being offered only a secretarial position at a law firm.

“It was a real gift to me to be able to learn from her, and to see the barriers that she had broken and the ways I was a beneficiary of it,” said Ms. Andersen Jones, who is now a law professor.

The death of Justice O’Connor on Friday stirred a cascade of reflections across the country. Elected officials from all levels of government lauded her intelligence and influence. Former clerks recalled her mentorship and guidance. Analysts considered her judicial legacy as a moderate Republican whose decisions often supported women’s rights.


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