Ruth Bader Ginsburg

I recently gave a speech about Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG), a former Justice of the US Supreme Court, who died in September 2020.  In preparing the speech, I was greatly helped by Charlotte Lang-Waring, Shifa Shiakh and Rachel Dance.  Here is the speech I gave:

 

Early life and education

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was born on March 15, 1933, to Jewish parents with Eastern European roots:

Her father (Nathan Bader) was a furrier from the Ukraine.  His business was hit hard by the depression.

Her mother‘s parents had moved to America from Poland.   She was a factory worker, and later a bookkeeper.  Ginsburg was once asked ”What’s the difference between a bookkeeper and a Supreme Court Justice?” and she replied “A generation.”

Ginsburg’s mother died on the day Ginsburg graduated from high school.

She instilled in Ginsburg a sense of independence and a love of learning. She took her to the library throughout her childhood and stocked up the family’s supply of books.

Ginsburg recalls, “My mother told me two things constantly. One was to be a lady, and the other was to be independent. The study of law was unusual for women of my generation. For most girls growing up in the ’40s, the most important degree was not your B.A., but your M.R.S.”  (MRS degree: A marriage resulting from going to university with the sole purpose of getting married and consequently not completing the course.)

She was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and with her parents, she attended the East Midwood Jewish Centre, a Conservative synagogue.

For a woman who became famous for her dissenting judgments on the Supreme Court, she had a natural sense of being in a minority: she was Jewish, and a woman.

It is easy to forget that, during the 1930s, anti-Semitism was virulent in America: Charles Coughlan and Gerard Winrod publicly condemned Jews, and in 1938 a poll reported that 60% of Americans had a low or very low opinion of Jews.  And it is easy to forget how women were treated in America – and here – until recent times.  After all, Gloria Steinem first wrote about Women’s Liberation in 1969.  And that was the year Germaine Greer published The Female Eunuch.  It is easy to forget how Women’s Lib was viewed back then.

Ginsburg went on to study at Cornell University, where at the age of 17, she met her future husband, Martin ‘Marty’ Ginsburg. They met on a blind date.  They married after graduation, and soon had a daughter, Jane.

Ginsburg said of Marty: “He was the only boy I ever knew… who cared that I had a brain.”

Law school

Soon after the birth of Jane, RBG entered Harvard Law School, where she was one of only 9 women in a class of over 500.  Ginsburg attended law school, not for women’s rights work, but, as she said, “for personal, selfish reasons. I thought I could do a lawyer’s job better than any other. I have no talent in the arts, but I do write fairly well and analyze problems clearly.”

But her feminist instincts were honed by her law school experiences. She and the other few women studying at Harvard met a lot of resistance, and often hostility, from senior faculty members. For instance, in 1956, the Dean of Harvard Law infamously asked Ginsburg and her 8 other female classmates why they were occupying seats that would otherwise be filled by men. Ginsburg’s female co-classmates have since reported on the experience of being a woman at Harvard as being treated as an oddity, and with a lot of hostility.

During her time at Harvard, RBG’s husband Marty Ginsburg was diagnosed with testicular cancer. During his illness and treatment, Ginsburg attended all of Marty’s classes, as well as her own, and typed all his papers – alongside caring for their daughter and aiding him while he was ill. Even with these immense responsibilities, Ginsburg won a coveted seat on the Harvard Law Review. Making Law Review at both Harvard and Columbia Law School was an unprecedented feat by any student, male or female.

Ginsburg was top of her class at Harvard and, typically, got no more than three hours of sleep per night, because she had a baby to care for, and Marty to look after.  Marty recovered and secured a prestigious role as a tax lawyer in New York.  He was later recognised as the most significant tax lawyer in America.

Early legal career

In her 2nd year of law school, Ginsburg worked for a top tier law firm in New York where she thought she had done a terrific job and was expecting a job upon graduation; but, despite her performance, there was no job offer.  Neither did Ginsburg receive a job offer from any of the 12 law firms with which she interviewed; only 2 gave her a follow-up interview.

Ginsburg tied for first in her class when she graduated from Columbia Law School.  Her Harvard professor Albert Sachs recommended her for a clerkship with Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter.  He wasn’t ready to hire a woman and asked Sachs for a male recommendation.   A mentor, law professor Gerald Gunther, was determined to place RBG in a federal clerkship, despite what was then a grave impediment. Gunther advised Judge Palmieri, of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, that if he didn’t take Ginsburg, Gunther would never send him a clerk again. Palmieri ultimately accepted her as his clerk. She held this role for two terms, rather than one, from 1959 to 1961.

Academic career

After her role as a clerk for Judge Palmieri, Ginsburg was offered law firm roles but chose to work on Columbia Law School’s International Procedure Project instead. She spent a year in Sweden to do this and learned Swedish for the purpose.  As part of the project, she co-authored a book on Sweden’s legal system and translated Sweden’s Judicial Code into English. 

In 1963, Ginsburg joined the faculty of Rutgers Law School where she discovered that her salary was lower than that of her male colleagues doing the same work. On discovering this, she joined an equal pay campaign with other women teaching at the university, which resulted in substantial pay increases for all the complainants.

Work at the ACLU

Prompted by her own experiences, Ginsburg began to handle sex discrimination complaints referred to her by the New Jersey affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).  At ACLU she established the Women’s Rights Project.  Later, when she was a Supreme Court Justice, she said: “Women’s rights are an essential part of the overall human rights agenda, trained on the equal dignity and ability to live in freedom all people should enjoy.”

The ACLU had been lukewarm towards women’s rights issues; it took a person with Ginsburg’s vision and leadership to establish the Women’s Rights Project.  Ginsburg was steadfast in her belief that men and women would “create new traditions by their actions, if artificial barriers are removed, and avenues of opportunity held open to them.”

In the 1960s at the ACLU, Ginsburg wrote a brief in the case Reed v. Reed. Sally Reed had separated from her husband, and when their son died, both parents sought to be appointed as executor of his estate. Idaho law automatically appointed the father as executor, because he was a man.

The co-authors of the brief were: Dorothy Kenyon, an early advocate for women’s rights, and Pauli Murray, a brilliant African American activist who had pioneered the argument for applying the 14th Amendment to women’s rights. Ginsburg learned a lot from them.

 The 14th Amendment was inserted in the US Constitution at the end of the Civil War.  It has 5 sections but, crucially, the first section is the so-called Equal Protection clause.  It provides:

Q1Aààà “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

During Reed v Reed  in 1971, only nine women had been appointed to the federal bench in all of American history. None of these women had sat on the Supreme Court.  So RBG had to convince a panel of nine male, establishment-oriented judges for gender equality. As a progessive leader in advocating for inequity, RBG had an ability to see cases through the eyes of someone who was skeptical of her position, but who was also capable of persuasion.

Similarly, Ginsburg wrote a seminal amicus brief in Craig v Boren (1976), a Supreme Court decision holding that “classifications by gender must serve important governmental objectives and must be substantially related to achievement of those objectives.” The plaintiff in Craig was a man who challenged an Oklahoma law permitting women to buy low-alcohol beer at age 18, but not men. Ginsburg’s goal was to convince the Court to hold  that the government ‘must not rely on overbroad generalisations about the different talents, capacities, or preferences of males and females” when it makes law.    The Supreme Court ultimately ruled that statutory or administrative sex classifications were subject to intermediate scrutiny under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Justice Ginsburg argued in many cases that the Fourteenth Amendment’s  equal protection clause extends to freedom from gender discrimination, that included both sexes. Her first big case as an advocate was a challenge to the law, whereby a man, Charles Moritz, was unable to claim a tax deduction for the care of his elderly mother. The deduction, by statute, could only be claimed by women, or widowed or divorced men. But Moritz had never married. The tax court concluded that the Internal Revenue Code was immune to constitutional challenge. But RBG considered that, rather than invalidate the statute, it should be applied equally to both sexes. She won in the lower courts.

The government petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court, saying that the decision “cast a cloud of unconstitutionality” over literally hundreds of federal statutes, and it attached a list of those statutes, which it compiled with Defence Department computers. Those laws, Marty Ginsburg noted later, “were the statutes that my wife then litigated … to overturn, over the next decade.”

Much later, Ginsburg noted that the government list had saved her a lot of work.

The fundamental rights which are guaranteed by the Constitution include: voting,  reproductive freedom and the right to travel interstate. The “fundamental right” concept has limited utility in gender discrimination cases, where, often, the female complainant has no right to a particular privilege, benefit or advantage. Sex, like race, is a visible, immutable, biological characteristic that has no nexus to ability.

RBG considered Reed v. Reed the turning point for women in gender discrimination for women in the Supreme Court. Ginsburg represented Sally Reed, who thought she should be the executor of her son’s estate instead of her ex-husband.  The constitutional issue was whether a state could automatically prefer men over women as executors of estates. A strict scrutiny test applied, rather than what the court considered the ‘rational’ basis. It was argued that this was justified by a compelling government interest. The unanimous decision was in Sally Reed’s favour. It was the first time in US history that the Supreme Court had struck down a state law because it discriminated based on gender and upheld a woman’s compliant of constitutional gender discrimination.

The Supreme Court ruled for Sally Reed in 1971, the first time it would strike down a law for treating men and women differently. The court ruled that giving a mandatory preference to one sex is “the very kind of arbitrary legislative choice forbidden by the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.” In an ACLU memo, Ginsburg called the victory “a small, guarded step.”

In 1972, the ACLU Women’s Rights Project was born under Ginsburg’s leadership, in order to remove these barriers and open these opportunities. She became the project’s general counsel, as well as serving on the national board of the ACLU. At the time, she was writing the first textbook on sex discrimination law, Text, Cases, and Materials on Sex-Based Discrimination, published in 1974.

In 1972, Ginsburg also became the first woman to be granted tenure at Columbia Law School.

“She told the story of sex discrimination — how it had been and how it had to end.”

Supreme Court cases

In 1973, Ginsburg took on another Supreme Court case. Sharron Frontiero was an Air Force officer whose husband, Joseph, had been denied the housing and medical benefits that female spouses of male Air Force officers received automatically.  In writing which was both muscular and spare, Ginsburg expanded the scope of her brief to encompass the history of women’s subjugation, with references to Alexis de Tocqueville and Alfred Lord Tennyson, and pared down the language to a precise and devastating argument. Brenda Feigen was a close colleague of Gloria Steinem, and was then co-directing the Women’s Rights Project with Ginsburg. She said of Ginsburg’s submissions in Frontiero:

“That’s when it dawned on me how brilliant she is, She was at her most creative and profound.  She told the story of sex discrimination — how it had been and how it had to end.”

Of her appearance in Frontiero Ginsburg said:

“I knew that I was speaking to men who didn’t think there was any such thing as gender-based discrimination and my job was to tell them it really exists.”

To make the point to the nine men who were sitting on the bench, she quoted the nineteenth-century women’s-rights advocate Sarah Grimké: “I ask no favour for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.” She won the case.  Brenda Feigen, who was by Ginsburg’s side in the court, said later:

“There was not a single question from any of the justices. They must have been transfixed.”

She won in Frontiero, even though, as amicus curiae, she had just 12 minutes of argument time.

Social Security cases illustrated how discriminatory laws, designed to help women, can harm men. In Weinberger v. Wiesenfeld, RBGs represented a man whose wife, the principal breadwinner, died in childbirth. The husband sought survivor’s benefits to care for his child, but under the then-existing Social Security law, only widows, not widowers, were entitled to such benefits. successfully challenged a law that denied widowers benefits that Wiesenfeld would have received if he were a woman that lost her husband.

Under the relevant legislation, a widow would have automatically collected these benefits, but Stephen Wiesenfeld did not, because they were considered “mother’s benefits.”

In Weinberger v Wiesenfield, Ginsburg was carrying out a far-sighted legal strategy in the pursuit of women’s rights: targeting a law that ostensibly benefited her sex and disadvantaged men.

On 20 January 1975, Ginsburg stood before the US Supreme Court to argue Wiesenfield’s case.

At the time, women accounted for barely 5% of the attorneys who had argued in front of the highest court in the country.

On behalf of her client, Ginsburg was fighting laws borne of a time when women generally were not expected to work unless circumstances forced it, while men were expected to see worth and obligation in their outsized ability to earn money.  She understood what it was like to suffer on account of being in a minority.

In arguing why the unequal treatment of the sexes was wrong, Ginsburg famously said that such “a gender line … helps to keep women not on a pedestal, but in a cage. It reinforces,” she continued, “the assumption that working for pay “is primarily the prerogative of men.”

Wiesenfeld won by a unanimous ruling that became a milestone in the feminist movement’s push to level the playing field, at work and at home.

Treating earnings as less or different because they were a woman’s and not a man’s was now contrary to equal protection under the law.

About 35 years after her argument in Weinberger v Wiesenfield, in the same courtroom where that case was heard, Ginsburg sat as the second woman to ever be appointed a Supreme Court Justice.

She served 27 years at the US Supreme Court, becoming its most prominent member.

She was the second female justice and the first Jewish woman ever appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Appointments

In 1980, President Jimmy Carter appointed Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

She was expected to be a liberal firebrand, but ultimately demonstrated the caution of a common-law constitutionalist.  She became friends with Antonin Scalia, who was a judge on the same court, and often joined with him and Robert Bork in their opinions.  Scalia was elevated to the Supreme Court in 1975, two years after Ginsburg. They remained good friends, but rarely agreed.

After Ginsburg had served 13 years on the Court of Appeals, President Bill Clinton appointed her to the Supreme Court of the United States, in 1973.

Ginsburg was only the second woman to be named to the Supreme Court, following Sandra Day O’Connor, and she was the first Jewish woman to serve.

On the bench of the Supreme Court, Ginsburg continued to fight for full gender equality under the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution.

In 1996, Ginsburg wrote the decision in United States v Virginia, striking down the male-only admission policy at the Virginia Military Institute and establishing a new standard of review for sex discrimination cases.

Over time, as the Supreme Court became more conservative in its approach, Ginsburg also became more pointed in her dissents.  She cane to be called the ‘Notorious RBG’

The nickname ‘Notorious RBG’ came from a Tumblr account made by NYU Law Student Shana Knizhnik in 2013.

https://notoriousrbg.tumblr.com/  It’s really worth a look

Knizknik explained that it was the juxtaposition of Ginsburg’s small stature and powerful presence that inspired her to create the nickname influenced by the rapper called ‘Notorious B.I.G’ (Biggie Smalls).

Notable Dissents

Ledbetter v Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co

As the Supreme Court became more conservative, Ginsburg was more frequently in dissent.

In one such case, Lilly Ledbetter sued her employer, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, in 1999 for gender discrimination after discovering that over the course of her 19-year career at the company, she had received lower compensation than her male counterparts. She won the case in federal court in 2003 and was awarded $3.8 million in back pay and damages.

But the relevant legislation had a 180-day charging period: in effect, a limitation period.

The tire giant appealed and the case eventually made its way to the Supreme Court. In 2007, the Supreme Court upheld a reversal of the federal court decision, ruling that because Ledbetter’s claim was made after the 180-day charging period, she could not sue her employer under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

When the court ruled against Lilly Ledbetter, who had been paid much less for years than her junior male colleagues at Goodyear, Ginsburg’s dissent included the following passage: “The court does not comprehend…the insidious way that women can be victims to discrimination…The ball is in Congress’ court.”

A couple of years later, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 into law.

Shelby County

In 2013, a majority of the US Supreme Court invalidated a key provision in the Voting Rights Act that required certain jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to undergo federal oversight before enacting any changes in voting procedure.

In response, Ginsburg penned a fiery dissent, pointing out that Congress passed the latest installment of the Voting Rights Act with “overwhelming bipartisan support.”

“The sad irony of today’s decision lies in (the court’s) utter failure to grasp why the (law) has proven effective, …the insidious way that women can be victims to discrimination,” Ginsburg wrote.

She wrote that “[t]hrowing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet”. 

It is the dissent in the Shelby case that grew Ginsburg’s following in pop culture in recent years – spurring the “Notorious RBG” moniker that morphed into a celebration of the justice’s legal career.

US v Virginia Military Institute

One of her most significant majority decisions regarding gender inequality was the United States v. Virginia: Virginia Military Institute case, excluding women from military service, based on sex. Ginsburg wrote the court’s 7-1 opinion declaring that it could no longer remain an all-male institution. Importantly, this was because it had not been able to provide “exceedingly persuasive justification” for making distinctions on the basis of sex. Although this standard fell short of the “strict scrutiny test” required in cases involving classifications on the basis of race, it nonetheless entrenched an important equality principle. The state, she said, could not exclude women who could meet those demands. “Reliance on overbroad generalizations … estimates about the way most men or most women are, will not suffice to deny opportunity to women whose talent and capacity place them outside the average description,” “Inherent differences” between men and women, we have come to appreciate, remain cause for celebration, but not for denigration of the members of either sex or for artificial constraints on an individual’s opportunity. Sex classifications may be used to compensate women for particular economic disabilities [they have] suffered,…but such classifications may not be used, as they once were, …to create or perpetuate the legal, social, and economic inferiority of women (Virgina). There should be no separate spheres for men and women under the law. Distinctions based on what “most” men or women do, on the choices that “most” of them make, are an impediment to full equality. While there were surely physical differences between men and women, how the law dealt with them was socially constructed—not innate—and based on old-fashioned stereotypes. A woman’s ability to bear children, and the traditional division of labor associated with it, too often contributed to “the legal, social and economic inferiority of women.” Ginsburg had said it before as an advocate.

Over the years, Ginsburg would file dozens of briefs seeking to persuade the courts that the 14th Amendment guarantee of equal protection applies not just to racial and ethnic minorities but to women as well. As Ginsburg’s place on the court grew in seniority, so did her role.

Bush v Gore

In the 2000 US presidential election, Florida was the key to victory for both the Democrats and the Republicans. However, the voting process in the state was a mess, with poorly designed ballots and counting irregularities abound.   

George W. Bush and Al Gore both declared victory in the state before election night was over, kicking off one of the most drawn-out election results in the nation’s history.  The election quickly went from a decision steered by vote counts to one steered by the courts.  The bitter court battle first went to Florida’s Supreme Court, where a manual recount of ballots was ordered. The Bush campaign immediately asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stay the decision and halt the recount.

The order was appealed up to the US Supreme Court, where it was reversed and Florida’s 25 electoral votes, along with the presidency, was handed to Bush.  Though Ginsburg was not on the winning side, she did not go gentle into that good night.  Notably, Antonin Scalia was in the majority.  

While Ginsburg’s colleagues in dissent wrote they dissented “respectfully,” she said only: “I dissent”.

”I might join the chief justice were it my commission to interpret Florida law,”. ”The extraordinary setting of this case has obscured the ordinary principle that dictates its proper resolution: federal courts defer to state high courts’ interpretations of their state’s own law. This principle reflects the core of federalism, on which all agree.”

”Were the other members of this court as mindful as they generally are of our system of dual sovereignty,” Justice Ginsburg concluded, ”they would affirm the judgment of the Florida Supreme Court.”

Hobby Lobby

At issue in Hobby Lobby  was the Health and Human Service (HHS) Mandate which would have required David and Barbara Green and their family franchise business Hobby Lobby to provide and facilitate four potentially life-terminating drugs and devices in their health insurance plan, against their religious convictions, or pay severe fines. The Greens argued that the mandate substantially burdened their religious beliefs in violation of a federal law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

In an opinion by Justice Alito, the Court said: “The plain terms of RFRA make it perfectly clear that Congress did not discriminate . . . against men and women who wish to run their businesses as for-profit corporations in the manner required by their religious beliefs…. Our responsibility is to enforce RFRA as written, and under the standard that RFRA prescribes, the HHS contraceptive mandate is unlawful.”

Ginsburg wrote in her dissent that the court had “ventured into a minefield,” adding it would disadvantage those employees “who do not share their employer’s religious beliefs.”  “Any decision to use contraceptives made by a woman covered under Hobby Lobby’s or Conestoga’s plan will not be propelled by the Government, it will be the woman’s autonomous choice, informed by the physician she consults,” she wrote.

Ginsburg also noted the cost barrier that many women face in attempting to gain access to different kinds of birth control.  “It bears note in this regard that the cost of an IUD is nearly equivalent to a month’s full-time pay for workers earning the minimum wage,” she wrote.

Contraceptive mandate of Obamacare

In July 2020, the US Supreme Court paved the way for the Trump administration to expand exemptions for employers who have religious or moral objections to complying with the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate.

In what turned out to be one of her last dissents, Ginsburg lambasted the court for “(leaving) women workers to fend for themselves,” in a case where the justices struck down the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate.

She said: “Today, for the first time, the Court casts totally aside countervailing rights and interests in its zeal to secure religious rights to the nth degree,” Ginsburg wrote in dissent.

“This court leaves women workers to fend for themselves, to seek contraceptive coverage from sources other than their employer’s insurer, and, absent another available source of funding, to pay for contraceptive services out of their own pockets,” she said and noted that the government had acknowledged that the rules would cause thousands of women — “between 70,500 and 126,400 women of childbearing age, to lose coverage” she wrote –.

When the case’s oral arguments were being heard, Ginsburg participated from a hospital bed because of a gall bladder condition. She also announced, weeks after her dissent in the case, that a scan the February before revealed lesions on her liver and she had begun bi-weekly chemotherapy.

Summary

In 1999, RBG was diagnosed with colon cancer. She underwent surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, all without missing a day of service on the bench.

Ten years later, she was diagnosed with early-stage pancreatic cancer, and was back in court within 12 days of her successful operation.

In 2010, her husband Martin died of his cancer, just four days after their 56th wedding anniversary.

Justice Ginsburg persevered in serving on the court through recurrences of her cancer, promising to remain on the bench so long as she was able to serve.  She died at her home in Washington, D.C. at the age of 87.

The world mourned her death, as a feminist icon, a great legal mind, and a giant of history.

The evening of her death, crowds gathered on the steps of the Supreme Court to pay tribute to a champion of equal justice under law.

Although she was only the second woman on the Supreme Court, she later shared the Court with two women, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.  On her death, she was replaced by Amy Coney Barrett, with whom she would not have agreed.

In America, Ginsburg was regarded as a liberal (as distinct from a conservative:  I do not know what the Australian equivalent words are).

She was not exactly radical, but she was a far-sighted thinker.  Arguably, the nearest equivalent we have, in Australia, is Michael Kirby: frequently in dissent, but usually pointing the way to the future.

But, unlike Ginsburg, Kirby is not the subject of a number of films, and various documentaries.

RBG did not retire during a democratic term, but died on September 18, 2020, of complications from pancreatic cancer.  Trump was still President, and lost no time in appointing Amy Coney Barrett in Ginsburg’s place Although the Supreme court can function with eight justices, in the absence of RBG, it was instantly rendered more conservative. With RBG, the history of the US Constitution is “the story of the extension of constitutional rights and protection to people once ignored or excluded.” Supreme Court Justices are appointed for life, with a potential impact on the country for decades after the President who appointed them has left the White House.

This impacts the ability of the court to interpret legislation from abortion to voting rights and from racial segregation to LGBTQ issues. However before announcing RBGs replacement, past President Donald Trump paid tribute to RBG a “legal giant and pioneer for women“, who had “inspired Americans for generations to come“. The Leading liberal, RBG was replaced with Amy Coney Barrett, a staunch conservative who has the potential extend the Court to the far right on almost every issue.

Justice Barrett is statistically indistinguishable from other conservative judges appointed by President Trump.  During her time as a judge on the Seventh Circuit, she didn’t always decide cases in line with other conservative judges and sometimes ruled in a liberal direction.  This will likely continue to establish a very strong Republican, conservative presence on the federal judiciary.  She was born in 1972, so she was only 48 when Trump appointed her, making her years younger than the next youngest.  The other Trump appointees are Kavanaugh (b.1965) and Gorsuch (b.1967). 

The US Supreme Court will be conservative for a long time.

Especially democrats and disadvantaged minority groups are not convinced that Judge Barrett, with her originalist interpretation of the Constitution, would protect many people in society. As a Trump-appointed federal judge on the Seventh Circuit, Barrett’s positions on matters such as health care, including the Affordable Care Act; worker rights; racial and ethnic equity; consumer rights; immigrant rights; gun safety; and rights of low-income defendants in criminal cases are concerning to Democrats and advocates of social justice. Overturning the landmark abortion case, Roe v Wade, would be only the tip of the iceberg. However, the likelihood of overturning this decision is small, considering the political controversy this would create. Yet Barrett’s presence on the court only makes the transition easier for the conservative bench to get to a five-vote majority on future cases involving everything from environmental regulations to voting rights.

There is an argument that Ginsburg should have left the court before the end of President Obama’s term to permit him to choose her successor. There are concerns of how politicised the court has become, and the conservative policy preferences of the Republican party could impact on the significant changes RBG made to American law.

If RBG had retired during Obama’s Presidency it would have permitted him to select young, relatively progressive judges who would be able to remain on the court for future decades and continue the work of RBGs legacy.

 

Notable Quotes

Bill Clinton said, when he nominated Ginsburg to the Supreme Court: “Ruth Bader Ginsburg cannot be called a liberal or a conservative; she has proved herself too thoughtful for such labels.”

“Justice Ginsburg personified the best of what it meant to be a judge…. We have lost a giant.” – Dean of Harvard Law School upon Ginsburg’s death.

RBG quotes:

“Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.”

“Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one’s ability to persuade.”

“Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”

“I’m a very strong believer in listening and learning from others.”

“In the course of a marriage, one accommodates the other.”

“Reading is the key that opens doors to many good things in life. Reading shaped my dreams, and more reading helped me make my dreams come true.”

“You can disagree without being disagreeable.”

“Every now and then it is useful to be a bit deaf”

“Don’t be distracted by emotions like anger, envy, resentment. These just zap energy and waste time.”

“Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.”

“I would like to be remembered as someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability.”

“I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.”