Sandra Day O'Connor at TLS

Just over the police officer's shoulder, you'll see a shock of white hair...

More later.


She fingered a yellow Number 2 pencil in her gnarled, sunned hands, a large silver and turquoise ring echoing the large turquoise earrings perched beneath her white-fading-to silver hair.  This was clearly a woman of the West.  "Justice O'Connor" the placard read, sitting before the figure with the trademark white cloth draped at her neck down the front of the black robe.  Her head bobbed slowly, but consistently for most of the time, except when she spoke, when she leaned into her questions, turquoise eyes scrunching, voice raising in an inquisitive whine with a sudden burst of emphasis.

Sandra Day O'Connor was sharp despite her age.  She knew the cases well, she narrowed counsel down to the salient facts and legal questions.  She was certainly the most animated of the three judge panel including two judges from the U.S. Fifth Circuit, a sliver of the bright purple of her attire showing at times when the robe engaged with a question.  She aired the common sense question, the bottom line consideration.  She chastised the district court in absentia - "Well, wouldn't it have been nice if the district judge would have SAID that in the opinion?"

She cut a striking figure against the iridescent green curtain behind the bench.  It was incredible to sit a few rows back and realize that this was, in fact, the first female justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, that this was the figure whose opinions I've read aplenty.  A tanned, aged, towering figure in American law, the fire still burning with the majesty of the law.  So very, very American - my mind drifted over and over to the power in the lines of her dissent in Gonzales v. Raich.  I'm very glad to have had the opportunity to see O'Connor in action during oral argument.