Late Justice Sandra Day O’Connor Named 2024 Bolch Prize Recipient

Late Justice Sandra Day O’Connor Named 2024 Bolch Prize Recipient

DURHAM, N.C. — The late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor has been named the 2024 recipient of the Bolch Prize for the Rule of Law by the Bolch Judicial Institute of Duke Law School. A ceremony will be held in her honor on April 4, 2024, at Duke University.

O’Connor’s pathbreaking career included service as a lawyer, state legislator, state court judge and the first woman justice of the United States Supreme Court, where she became known as the moderate voice of the court and a model of pragmatism and civility.

But it is perhaps her post-retirement work that most distinguishes her legacy of advancing and protecting the rule of law. After stepping down from the court in 2006, O’Connor launched a civics education movement that has since engaged millions of young people and adults in learning about America’s founding principles and institutions.

Today, iCivics — the nonprofit organization that O’Connor founded in 2009 to provide free civics resources and games for students, teachers, and families — reaches more than nine million students annually. It is just one of several organizations she founded to advance civic education and civil discourse throughout the country, helping to spark a renewal in civics advocacy and programming for schools and universities as well as countless court- and judge-led initiatives around the country and throughout the world.

“It would be hard to imagine anyone more deserving of a prize honoring dedication to justice, judicial independence and the rule of law than Justice Sandra Day O’Connor,” said John G. Roberts, Jr., chief justice of the United States. “After decades as a pathbreaking figure in two branches of government, she capped off a lifetime of public service by launching iCivics, which revolutionized the teaching of civics education in our schools.”

The Susan and Carl Bolch Jr. Prize for the Rule of Law is awarded annually by the Bolch Judicial Institute of Duke Law School to an individual or organization who has demonstrated extraordinary dedication to the rule of law and advancing rule of law principles around the world. By honoring those who do this work, the Bolch Prize draws attention to the ideals of justice and judicial independence and to the constitutional structures and safeguards that undergird a free society. O’Connor was selected by the Bolch Judicial Institute’s Advisory Board in a vote earlier this year.

“Even as we mourn her passing, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor remains a beacon of light and hope for our country. We are proud to honor her lifelong devotion to advancing and protecting the rule of law, both as a political and judicial leader and as the architect of a renewal in civics education in our country,” said Paul W. Grimm, the David F. Levi Professor of the Practice of Law and director of the Bolch Judicial Institute.

“Her legacy of moderation, of civility and decency, of genuine affection for colleagues on all points of the political spectrum offers a model of leadership that we all should aspire to. And her foundational work in civics education provides a map toward improving not just educational opportunities for young people but also our society’s understanding of who we are as a country, the things that bind us together, and how we can work together to continually perfect our union. At a time when public understanding of and faith in our democratic institutions is at a historic low and extreme partisanship and public incivility blight our public discourse, we need Justice O’Connor’s example more than ever.”

About the Bolch Prize
The Bolch Prize for the Rule of Law is awarded in accordance with the Bolch Judicial Institute’s founding documents, which specify that the Prize “shall be given by the Bolch Judicial Institute to recognize the lifetime achievement of an individual or a single or series of acts of an individual or an organization creating, promoting, or preserving the importance of the rule of law nationally or internationally.”

The recipient is selected by the Bolch Judicial Institute’s Advisory Board and honored during a ceremony at Duke. The prize includes a custom artwork and a significant monetary award. Past prize recipients are: retired Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy (2019); Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke of the South Africa Constitutional Court (2020);  retired Chief Justice Margaret Marshall of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts (2021); Judge J. Clifford Wallace of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (2022); and the International Association of Women Judges (2023).

For questions about the Bolch Prize program, contact Melinda Vaughn at

A longer version of this release is available here.

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