UI honoring retired Justice O'Connor

The University of Illinois has chosen retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor to receive the 2008 Paul H. Douglas Ethics in Government Award.

A committee of the university's Institute of Government and Public Affairs chose O'Connor for her lifelong devotion to good government and her steadfast defense of an independent judiciary, according to Robert Rich, the institute's director.

"Sandra Day O'Connor's career has exemplified excellence in public service," Rich said in a written release.

"She has been a courageous public leader who has promoted a very high standard of integrity in her public and private life. We are honored to recognize her distinguished career with this award."

O'Connor was the first woman to be nominated to the Supreme Court when she was chosen by President Reagan in 1981 to replace retiring Justice Potter Stewart. Viewed by many as a moderating voice on the court, she cast the deciding vote on several rulings, including one that upheld the constitutionality of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law.

O'Connor retired from the Supreme Court on Jan. 31, 2006.

Since her retirement, O'Connor has spoken frequently on the need to maintain a judiciary free of political pressure.

She is also an advocate for merit selection of judges as a way to keep politics out of the judicial system.

O'Connor will receive the award at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., on June 8, 2009. The Douglas Award is presented annually to a public servant who has made a lasting contribution to ethical behavior in government. The award, established in 1992, is in memory of Paul H. Douglas, the three-term lawmaker from Illinois.

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