[JURIST] Former US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor [JURIST news archive] made her decision to step down [JURIST report] in July 2005 after consulting with then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist [JURIST news archive], according to a Newsweek interview [text; press release] released Sunday. O'Connor told the magazine,
[Rehnquist and I] talked a little bit. I was concerned about whether he had an intention to step down since his plans might have altered my own. It's hard for the nation to grapple with two [retirements] at once. He indicated he didn't want to step down.O'Connor indicated that she otherwise may have preferred to stay on the bench until she was no longer physically capable of performing the job, but that consideration of her seriously ill husband changed her plans. In the interview she also acknowledged the new composition of the Court and her reputation as the swing vote on a number of controversial cases: "I'm sure there will be some sense that in some instances, had I been on the court, my vote might have differed from some of the new members. But that's all right. That's the way things go."
Former Chief Justice Rehnquist was battling cancer at the time of O'Connor's retirement; he died two months later [JURIST report]. O'Connor remained on the bench for six months until her replacement, Samuel Alito [JURIST news archive], took over in January 2006. O'Connor's status as a retired justice means that she is still considered an active judge and performs numerous related duties, including filling in as a federal appeals judge on various Circuits and even swearing in public officials in her home state of Arizona. Last year she also served on James Baker and Lee Hamilton's bipartisan Iraq Study Group [official website; JURIST report]. AP has more.