Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman justice on the Supreme Court, has been diagnosed with the “beginning stages of dementia,” and will no longer make public appearances.
According to NPR, the 88-year-old retired justice announced her battle with dementia in a letter released by her family on Tuesday. O’Connor’s doctors diagnosed her “[s]ome time ago” with “probably Alzheimer’s disease,” per the letter, but the dementia has since progressed.
O’Connor, who was appointed to the Supreme Court by Ronald Reagan, served from 1981 to 2006, and has remained relatively active in public life since her retirement. Most recently, she criticized the GOP for blocking President Obama from appointing a justice to the Supreme Court after Antonin Scalia died in 2016, though she herself was appointed by a Republican and leaned conservative in her rulings.
“Not long after I retired from the Supreme Court twelve years ago, I made a commitment to myself, my family, and my country that I would use whatever years I had left to advance civic learning and engagement,” O’Connor wrote in her letter. “I can no longer help lead this cause, due to my physical condition. It is time for new leaders to make civic learning and civic engagement a reality for all.”
O’Connor plans to spend her remaining time in Phoenix, Arizona, with her family.