Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Ruth Joan Bader Ginsburg (born March 15, 1933) is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Ginsburg was appointed by President Bill Clinton and took the oath of office on August 10, 1993. She is the second female justice (after Sandra Day O'Connor) and the first Jewish female justice.
She is generally viewed as belonging to the liberal wing of the Court. Before becoming a judge, Ginsburg spent a considerable portion of her legal career as an advocate for the advancement of women's rights as a constitutional principle. She advocated as a volunteer lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union and was a member of its board of directors and one of its general counsel in the 1970s. She was a professor at Rutgers School of Law–Newark and Columbia Law School. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter appointed her to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
- 1 Early life and education
- 2 Early career
- 3 Judicial career
- 4 Personal life
- 5 Plans
- 6 Recognition
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 Bibliography
- 10 External links
Early life and education
Born in Brooklyn, New York City, New York, Ruth Joan Bader was the second daughter of Nathan and Celia (née Amster) Bader. (The first daughter died when Ruth was young.) The family nicknamed her "Kiki". They belonged to the East Midwood Jewish Center, where she took her religious confirmation seriously. At age thirteen, Ruth acted as the "camp rabbi" at a Jewish summer program at Camp Che-Na-Wah in Minerva, New York.
Her mother took an active role in her education, taking her to the library often. Bader attended James Madison High School, whose law program later dedicated a courtroom in her honor. Her mother struggled with cancer throughout Ruth's high school years and died the day before her graduation.
She graduated from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in government on June 23, 1954. In fall 1956, she enrolled at Harvard Law School, where she was one of nine women in a class of about 500. When her husband took a job in New York City, she transferred to Columbia Law School and became the first woman to be on two major law reviews, the Harvard Law Review and the Columbia Law Review. In 1959 she earned her Bachelor of Laws at Columbia and tied for first in her class.
In 1960, despite a strong recommendation from the dean of Harvard Law School, Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter turned down Ginsburg for a clerkship position because of her gender. Later that year, Ginsburg began a clerkship for Judge Edmund L. Palmieri of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
From 1961 to 1963, she was a research associate and then associate director of the Columbia Law School Project on International Procedure, learning Swedish to co-author a book with Anders Bruzelius on civil procedure in Sweden. Ginsburg conducted extensive research for her book at Lund University in Sweden.
She was a professor of law at Rutgers from 1963 to 1972. In 1970 she co-founded the Women's Rights Law Reporter, the first law journal in the U.S. to focus exclusively on women's rights. From 1972 until 1980, she taught at Columbia, where she became the first tenured woman and co-authored the first law school casebook on sex discrimination. She also taught in Tulane University Law School's summer-abroad program. In 1977, she became a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University.
In 1972, Ginsburg co-founded the Women's Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and, in 1973, she became the ACLU's General Counsel. As the chief litigator for the Women's Rights Project, she briefed and argued several landmark cases in front of the Supreme Court, such as Reed v. Reed, 404 U.S. 71 (1971), wherein the Court extended the protections of the Equal Protection Clause to women for the first time. She also argued Frontiero v. Richardson, 411 U.S. 677 (1973) and Weinberger v. Wiesenfeld, 420 U.S. 636 (1975), which supported the ultimate development and application of the intermediate scrutiny Equal Protection standard of review for legal classifications based on sex. She attained a reputation as a skilled oral advocate and her work directly led to the end of gender discrimination in many areas of the law.
Her last case as a lawyer before the Court was 1978's Duren v. Missouri, which challenged laws and practices making jury duty voluntary for women in that state. Ginsburg viewed optional jury duty as a message that women's service was unnecessary to important government functions. At the end of Ginsburg's oral presentation, then-Associate Justice William Rehnquist asked Ginsburg, "You won't settle for putting Susan B. Anthony on the new dollar, then?" Ginsburg said she considered responding "We won't settle for tokens," but instead opted not to answer the question.
U.S. Court of Appeals
President Jimmy Carter appointed Ginsburg to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on April 14, 1980, to the seat of recently deceased judge Harold Leventhal. She served there for 13 years, until joining the Supreme Court. During her tenure on the D.C. Circuit, Ginsburg made 57 hires for law clerk, intern, and secretary positions. At her Supreme Court confirmation hearing, it was revealed that none of those hired had been African-American, a fact for which Ginsburg (an "aggressive support[er] [of] disparate-impact statistics as evidence of intentional discrimination") was sharply criticized.
Nomination and confirmation
President Bill Clinton nominated her as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court on June 14, 1993, to fill the seat vacated by retiring Justice Byron White. Ginsburg was recommended to Clinton by then-U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno.
During her subsequent testimony before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee as part of the confirmation hearings, she refused to answer questions regarding her personal views on most issues or how she would adjudicate certain hypothetical situations as a Supreme Court Justice. A number of Senators on the committee came away frustrated, with unanswered questions about how Ginsburg planned to make the transition from an advocate for causes she personally held dear, to a justice on the Supreme Court. Despite this, Ginsburg refused to discuss her beliefs about the limits and proper role of jurisprudence, saying, "Were I to rehearse here what I would say and how I would reason on such questions, I would act injudiciously."
At the same time, Ginsburg did answer questions relating to some potentially controversial issues. For instance, she affirmed her belief in a constitutional right to privacy and explicated at some length on her personal judicial philosophy and thoughts regarding gender equality. The U.S. Senate confirmed her by a 96 to 3 vote and she took her judicial oath on August 10, 1993.
Supreme Court jurisprudence
Ginsburg characterizes her performance on the Court as a cautious approach to adjudication. She argued in a speech shortly before her nomination to the Court that "[m]easured motions seem to me right, in the main, for constitutional as well as common law adjudication. Doctrinal limbs too swiftly shaped, experience teaches, may prove unstable."
Although Ginsburg has consistently supported abortion rights and joined in the Court's opinion striking down Nebraska's partial-birth abortion law in Stenberg v. Carhart 530 U.S. 914 (2000), on the fortieth anniversary of the Court's ruling in Roe v. Wade 410 U.S. 113 (1973), she criticized the decision as terminating a nascent democratic movement to liberalize abortion laws which might have built a more durable consensus in support of abortion rights.
She discussed her views on abortion rights and sexual equality in a 2009 New York Times interview, in which she said regarding abortion that "[t]he basic thing is that the government has no business making that choice for a woman." One statement she made during the interview ("Frankly, I had thought at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don't want to have too many of.") was criticized by conservative commentator Michael Gerson as reflecting an "attitude...that abortion is economically important to a 'woman of means' and useful in reducing the number of social undesirables."
Ginsburg has also been an advocate for using foreign law and norms to shape U.S. law in judicial opinions, in contrast to the textualist views of her colleagues Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Justice Antonin Scalia, Justice Clarence Thomas, and Justice Samuel Alito. Despite their fundamental differences, Ginsburg considers Scalia her closest colleague on the Court. The two justices often dine and attend the opera together.
Selected court opinions
- United States v. Virginia, 518 U.S. 515 (1996) Court Opinion. Virginia Military Institute's male-only admission policy violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
- United States v. O'Hagan, 521 U.S. 642 (1997) Court Opinion
- Olmstead v. L.C., 527 U.S. 581 (1999) Court Opinion
- Friends of the Earth, Inc. v. Laidlaw Environmental Services, Inc., 528 U.S. 167 (2000) Court Opinion
- Bush v. Gore, 531 U.S. 98 (2000) Dissenting
- Eldred v. Ashcroft, 537 U.S. 186 (2003) Court Opinion
- Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Industries Corp., 544 U.S. 280 (2005) Court Opinion
- Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 550 U.S. 618 (2007) Dissenting
- Gonzales v. Carhart, 550 U.S. 124 (2007) Dissenting
- Ricci v. DeStefano, 129 S. Ct. 2658 (2009) Dissenting
- Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, 573 U.S. ___ (2014) Dissenting
More than a decade passed between the two successive terms in which Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer were appointed and the date another justice left the Court. By that time, both the Congress and the White House had switched to Republican control. When O'Connor announced her retirement in the summer of 2005, with Chief Justice Rehnquist's death a few months later, both sides began to squabble about just what kinds of questions President George W. Bush's nominees would be expected to answer. The debate heated up when hearings for Roberts began in September 2005. Republicans used an argument they called the "Ginsburg Precedent", which centered on Ginsburg's confirmation hearings. In those hearings, she did not answer questions involving matters such as abortion, gay rights, separation of church and state, and disability rights. Only one witness testified against Ginsburg at her confirmation hearings and the hearings lasted only four days.
In a September 28, 2005, speech at Wake Forest University, Ginsburg said that Roberts' refusal to answer questions during his Senate confirmation hearings on some cases was "unquestionably right". Democrats had taken issue with Roberts' refusal to answer certain questions, saying Ginsburg had made her views very clear, even if she did not comment on some specific matters, and that because of her lengthy tenure as a judge, many of her legal opinions were already available for review.
During Roberts' confirmation hearings, Senators Joe Biden (Delaware), Orrin Hatch (Utah), and Roberts himself brought up Ginsburg's hearings several times as they argued over what questions she answered and what Roberts was expected to answer. The precedent was again cited several times during the confirmation hearings for Justice Samuel Alito.
In January 2012, Ginsburg went to Egypt for four days of discussions with judges, law school faculty, law school students, and legal experts. Part of the purpose of her visit was to "listen and learn" as Egypt began its constitutional transition to democracy. She also answered questions about the American justice system and the American Constitution. Ginsburg told students at Cairo University that she was "inspired" by the Egyptian revolution.
In an interview with Alhayat TV, she stated that the first requirement of a new constitution should be that it "safeguard basic fundamental human rights, like our First Amendment". Asked if Egypt should model its new constitution on those of other nations, she said Egypt should be "aided by all Constitution-writing that has gone on since the end of World War II", adding, "I would not look to the U.S. Constitution, if I were drafting a Constitution in the year 2012. I might look at the Constitution of South Africa. That was a deliberate attempt to have a fundamental instrument of government that embraced basic human rights, had an independent judiciary. ... It really is, I think, a great piece of work that was done. Much more recent than the U.S. Constitution." She said the U.S. was fortunate to have a constitution authored by "very wise" men but pointed out that in the 1780s no women were able to participate in the process and slavery still existed in the U.S.
On August 31, 2013, Ginsburg officiated at the same-sex wedding of Kennedy Center President Michael Kaiser and John Roberts, a government economist. This is believed to be a first for a Supreme Court justice.
A few days after graduating from Cornell, Ruth Bader married Martin D. Ginsburg, later an internationally prominent tax lawyer, and then (after they moved from New York to Washington DC, upon her accession to the D.C. Circuit) professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center. Their daughter Jane (born 1955) is a professor at Columbia Law School. Their son James Steven Ginsburg (born 1965) is founder and president of Cedille Records, a classical-music recording company based in Chicago, Illinois.
After the birth of their daughter, her husband was diagnosed with testicular cancer. During this period, Ginsburg attended class and took notes for both of them, typed her husband's papers to his dictation, and cared for their daughter and her sick husband—all while making the Harvard Law Review. They celebrated their 56th wedding anniversary on June 23, 2010. Martin Ginsburg died of complications from metastatic cancer on June 27, 2010. They spoke publicly of being in Shared Earning/Shared Parenting Marriage, including in a speech Martin Ginsburg wrote and had intended to give prior to his death and Ruth Bader Ginsburg delivered posthumously.
Some Supreme Court justices and other prominent figures attend the Red Mass held every fall in Washington, DC at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle. Ginsburg explained her reason for no longer attending: "I went one year, and I will never go again, because this sermon was outrageously anti-abortion," Ginsburg said. "Even the Scalias – although they're much of that persuasion – were embarrassed for me."
Although raised in a Jewish home, Ginsburg became non-observant when she was excluded from the minyan for mourners following the death of her mother. There was a "house full of women," but Ginsburg, as a woman, was excluded. Judaism requires that 10 men be present for a minyan and women are excluded from being counted. She notes that her attitude might be different now, following her attendance at a bat mitzvah ceremony in a more liberal stream of Judaism, where the rabbi and cantor were both women. In March 2015 Ginsburg, along with Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt, released a feminist essay on Passover, “The Heroic and Visionary Women of Passover,” highlighting the roles of five key women in the saga: "“These women had a vision leading out of the darkness shrouding their world. They were women of action, prepared to defy authority to make their vision a reality bathed in the light of the day.”
Ginsburg has a collection of jabots from around the world. She stated in 2014 that she has a particular jabot that she wears when issuing her dissents (black with gold embroidery and faceted stones), as well as another she wears when issuing majority opinions (crocheted yellow and cream with crystals) which was a gift from her law clerks. Her favorite jabot (woven with white beads) is from Cape Town, South Africa.
Ginsburg was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1999 and underwent surgery followed by chemotherapy and radiation therapy. During the process, she did not miss a day on the bench. On February 5, 2009, she again underwent surgery related to pancreatic cancer. Ginsburg's tumor was discovered at an early stage. She was released from a New York City hospital, eight days after the surgery and heard oral arguments again four days later.
With the retirement of John Paul Stevens in 2010, Ginsburg became, at age 77, the eldest justice on the Court. Despite rumors she would retire as a result of old age, poor health, and the death of her husband, she denied she was planning to step down. In an August 2010 interview, Ginsburg stated that the Court's work was helping her cope with the death of her husband and suggested she would serve at least until a painting that used to hang in her office was due to be returned to her in 2012. She also expressed a wish to emulate Justice Louis Brandeis service of nearly 23 years, who retired at 82, which would get her to April 2016. She has also stated that she has a new "model" to emulate, Justice Stevens, who retired after nearly 35 years on the bench at age 90.
In 2009 Ginsburg was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Willamette University. In 2010 she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Princeton University. In 2011 she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Harvard University.
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- The three negative votes came from conservative Republican Senators – Don Nickles (Oklahoma), Bob Smith (New Hampshire) and Jesse Helms (North Carolina), while Donald W. Riegle, Jr. (Democrat – Michigan) did not vote.
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- Ginsburg Is Latest Justice to Reflect on Faith Washington Post, 15 Jan 2008
- Justice Ginsburg has released a new feminist take on the Passover narrative Washington Post, 18 March 2015
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- Clinton, Bill (2005). My Life. New York: Vintage Books. ISBN 1-4000-3003-X.
- Garner, Bryan A.; Ginsburg, Ruth Bader (foreword) (2009). "Foreword". Garner on Language and Writing. Chicago: American Bar Association. ISBN 978-1-59031-588-0.
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|Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
| Succeeded by|
|Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
|United States order of precedence (ceremonial)|
as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court
|Order of Precedence of the United States
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as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court
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