American Experience: Sandra Day O’Connor
(DVD / NR / 2021 / PBS)
Overview: For 191 years, the Supreme Court of the United States was populated only by men. When President Ronald Reagan nominated Sandra Day O’Connor as the first female justice in 1981, the announcement dominated the news.
Time Magazine’s cover proclaimed, Justice at Last, and she received unanimous Senate approval.
DVD Verdict: During her more than two decades on the Supreme Court, O’Connor was the critical swing vote on cases involving some of the 20th century’s most controversial issues, including race, gender and reproductive rights — and she cast the decisive vote in Bush v. Gore.
Based on First: Sandra Day O’Connor by Evan Thomas, this biographical portrait recounts the life of a pioneering woman who both reflected and shaped an era.
In what is a thoroughly fascinating new PBS documentary, American Experience: Sandra Day O’Connor - The First, we quickly learn that Sandra Day O’Connor (born March 26th, 1930) is an American retired attorney and politician who served as the first female associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1981 to 2006.
Indeed, as noted, she was the first woman nominated and, subsequently, the first woman confirmed. Nominated by President Ronald Reagan, she was considered the swing vote for the Rehnquist Court and the first few months of the Roberts Court.
Prior to O’Connor’s tenure on the Court, she was a judge and an elected official in Arizona, serving as the first female majority leader of a state senate as the Republican leader in the Arizona Senate.
Upon her nomination to the Court, O’Connor was confirmed unanimously by the Senate. On July 1st, 2005, she announced her intention to retire effective upon the confirmation of a successor. Samuel Alito was nominated to take her seat in October 2005 and joined the Court on January 31st, 2006.
O’Connor most frequently sided with the Court’s conservative bloc and often wrote concurring opinions that limited the reach of the majority holding.
Her majority opinions in landmark cases include Grutter v. Bollinger and Hamdi v. Rumsfeld. She also wrote in part the per curiam majority opinion in Bush v. Gore, and was one of three co-authors of the lead opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
During her time on the court, some publications ranked O’Connor among the most powerful women in the world and one August 12th, 2009, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.
Learn more about all this and oh-so much more in this quite brilliant new PBS documentary on one of the Nation’s most incredible people. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
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