Justice Sandra Day O'Connor says she at times yearned to escape the media attention she drew in her initial year as the first female member of the U.S. Supreme Court.

O'Connor told a meeting of the Oregon State Bar on Thursday she became an instant novelty in 1981, the year she was appointed, and that the press followed her everywhere."My first year on the court made me long at times for obscurity," she said.

O'Connor said she was surprised about her appointment to the Supreme Court. She was a state appeals court judge in Arizona at the time.

"I had never expected or aspired to be a Supreme Court judge," she said.

She said she had plenty to learn because she had little experience with federal law or the federal court system.

"It was several years before I felt confident in granting or denying petitions" that seek to have the Supreme Court hear appeals, she said.

She said although people probably perceive the court as being insulated from the rest of society, she thinks it's a good place to get an overview of the nation's concerns because of the variety of cases it handles.