Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor (search) said Thursday she was saddened by attacks on an independent federal judiciary and on deteriorating relations with Congress.

Her comments came as Congress prepared for confirmation hearings on federal appeals court Judge John G. Roberts (search), who President Bush nominated Tuesday to replace her.

"There are concerns with some in Congress with judges painted as activists," O'Connor told lawyers and judges at a 9th U.S. Circuit conference. "There is inevitably going to be a lot of time spent with the nominees."

O'Connor, who was confirmed by a 99-0 Senate vote in 1981, said television coverage of the Senate Judiciary Committee has likely escalated conflicts.

O'Connor also defended her opinions in states' rights cases and praised President Reagan (search) for making her the first woman on the Supreme Court and "opening doors for women." She said she was privileged to serve for 24 years on the Supreme Court.

It was the first public appearance by O'Connor since she announced her retirement July 1.

She said she is looking forward to golfing and fishing in retirement and taking a break from the demands of her high-pressure job.

On Wednesday, O'Connor said in an interview that Roberts was an excellent choice and praised him as well qualified, but said she was disappointed in a sense that the nominee isn't a woman.