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Sandra Day O & # 39; Connor says she has dementia, suffering from public life: NPR

Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day Connor says she has been diagnosed with "dementia, probably Alzheimer's disease." She will be…

Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day Connor says she has been diagnosed with “dementia, probably Alzheimer’s disease.” She will be seen here in 201

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Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day Connor says she has been diagnosed with “dementia, probably Alzheimer’s disease.” She will be seen here in 2012.

Karen Bleier / AFP / Getty Images

Former Supreme Court Sandra Day Connor says she has been diagnosed with “beginning of dementia, probably Alzheimer’s disease,” in an open letter released Tuesday.

Connor, 88, is the first female justice to serve in the Supreme Court, and she has been active after retiring in 2006. She left the court to take care of her husband John, who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Now, O & # 39; Connor says, the disease forces her to withdraw from public life.

She was diagnosed “recently,” O & # 39; Connor said in a letter released by the Supreme Court Public Information Office.

“Because this state has evolved, I can no longer participate in public life,” says Connor. “Since many have asked about my current status and activity, I want to be open about these changes, and at the same time as I still can share any personal thoughts. “

In his letter, O & # 39; Connor describes the importance of encouraging the growth of American citizenship and commitment – an important goal for iCivics, the organization she started after leaving the federal bench.

Reply to O & # 39; Connor’s letter, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote: “I was sad to learn that Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, like many Americans, faces the challenge of dementia.”

He added: “But I was not surprised at all that she used the opportunity to share the fact of thinking about our country first and calling for increased involvement in community education, a reason for which she devoted so much of her time and unchangeable energy. “

Calling Connor” a towering figure in the history of the United States, “said Roberts.” She broke down barriers for women in law education to the improvement of this profession and the country as a whole. “

The earlier justice, said Roberts, has been “a model not only for girls and women, but for all those who committed equal justice by law.” He added: “No disease or condition can remove the inspiration she gives to those who will follow the many courses she has blossomed “.

O’Connor was a judge in the Arizona Appeal Court when nominated to the Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, to fill the vacancy provided by Retirement Justice Potter Stewart.

Explain how it was to be the first woman in the Supreme Court, said Connor to NPR’s Terry Gross in 2013 that she felt “a special responsibility” to perform at a level that would keep the door open to more women to follow her

Connor stepped up to the law firm’s highs after encountering an extra barrier to his degree from Stanford Law School: None of the more than 40 law firms that she called would talk to her because they did not rent women.

“And it just came as a real shock because I had done well at school that I could not even get an interview,” she said on Fresh Air .

Connor began his career as a deputy county attorney in San Mateo, California, and eventually settled in Maricopa County, Ariz., where she and her husband started a family.

Towards the end of her letter, which announced her state, O & # 39; Connor:

“I will continue living in Phoenix, Arizona, surrounded by dear friends and family. While the last chapter of my life with dementia can try, nothing has diminished my gratitude and deep appreciation for the countless blessings of my life. How lucky I feel about being an American and having been presented with the remarkable opportunities offered by our citizens. As a young cowgirl from the Arizona desert, I could never have imagined that one day I would become the first woman’s justice in the United States Supreme Court. “

In 2009, Connor was awarded the highest civilian honor in the United States – Presidential Medal of Freedom – with President Barack Obama.

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