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Spokane, Wash.—As Sandra Day O’Connor prepares to step down as the first female high court justice, she has two regrets: the growing strain between the judiciary and Congress, and the fact that she is unlikely to be replaced by another woman. O’Connor made those comments to roughly 600 lawyers, judges and their families on the closing day of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal’s annual judicial conference, as part of her traditional visit to the circuit to talk about the past year’s developments in the law. She expressed concern for the current strained relations between Congress and the judiciary. “I’m old and in all the years I have been around I don’t think I’ve seen it as strained as it is now,” she said. She did not discuss the nomination of Judge John Roberts, but said when a new justice joins the court “it is not just a new member, you have a new court.” O’Connor learned about her potential replacement as she returned from a fly-fishing trip for trout on the St. Joe River in rugged country two hours from Spokane. U.S. District Judge Robert Whaley, who hosted her fishing trip, said her reaction was that Roberts would be a great jurist. “Her only reservation was that she had hoped it would be a woman,” he said. Circuit Chief Judge Mary Schroeder, a long-time friend of O’Connor’s, said she shared her regret “that now there will be just as many women on the court as when she started her tenure-one.” Schroeder predicted the chief justice would assign Justice Anthony Kennedy to be the new circuit judge for the 9th Circuit, because he is from California.

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