O’Connor in her office at the Supreme Court on April 7, 2003.
From the early 1990s until her retirement in 2006, she was the indisputable swing justice, often casting the deciding vote in the court’s most contentious cases. Her lack of a consistent judicial philosophy rankled some, but others praised her practical bent as a moderating influence.
She sometimes sided with the court’s conservatives, approving taxpayer-funded vouchers for students at religious schools, voting to end the 2000 Florida recount between George W. Bush and Al Gore, and advocating for states’ rights against federal control.
But she joined with the court’s liberals in upholding affirmative action in college admissions, approving the creation of more congressional districts with Black voters in the majority, and keeping a wall of separation between government and religion.