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Ruth Bader Ginsburg

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Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Ruth Bader Ginsburg 2016 portrait.jpg
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court
of the United States
Assumed office
August 10, 1993
Appointed byBill Clinton
Preceded byByron White
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
In office
June 30, 1980 – August 9, 1993
Appointed byJimmy Carter
Preceded byHarold Leventhal
Succeeded byDavid Tatel
Personal details
Joan Ruth Bader

(1933-03-15) March 15, 1933 (age 86)
Brooklyn, New York City, U.S.
Martin Ginsburg
(m. 1954; died 2010)
ChildrenJane C. Ginsburg
James Steven Ginsburg
EducationCornell University (BA)
Harvard University (attended)
Columbia University (JD)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg (/ˈbdərˈɡɪnzbɜːrɡ/, born Joan Ruth Bader; March 15, 1933)[1] 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) of four to be confirmed to the court (along with Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, who are still serving). Following O'Connor's retirement, and until Sotomayor joined the court, Ginsburg was the only female justice on the Supreme Court. During that time, Ginsburg became more forceful with her dissents, which were noted by legal observers and in popular culture. She is generally viewed as belonging to the liberal wing of the court. Ginsburg has authored notable majority opinions, including United States v. Virginia, Olmstead v. L.C., and Friends of the Earth, Inc. v. Laidlaw Environmental Services, Inc.

Ginsburg was born in Brooklyn, New York. Her older sister died when she was a baby, and her mother, one of her biggest sources of encouragement, died shortly before Ginsburg graduated from high school. She then earned her bachelor's degree at Cornell University, and became a wife and mother before starting law school at Harvard, where she was one of the few women in her class. Ginsburg transferred to Columbia Law School, where she graduated tied for first in her class. Following law school, Ginsburg turned to academia. She was a professor at Rutgers Law School and Columbia Law School, teaching civil procedure as one of the few women in her field.

Ginsburg spent a considerable part of her legal career as an advocate for the advancement of gender equality and women's rights, winning multiple victories arguing before the Supreme Court. 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 counsels in the 1970s. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter appointed her to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, where she served until her appointment to the Supreme Court. Ginsburg has received attention in American popular culture for her fiery liberal dissents and refusal to step down; she has been dubbed the "Notorious R.B.G."[2]

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  • ✪ Stanford Rathbun Lecture 2017 - Ruth Bader Ginsburg
  • ✪ Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg discusses the 2017-18 Supreme Court term


[MUSIC] Stanford University. >> Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Stanford University Provost, Persis Drell >> [APPLAUSE] >> [APPLAUSE] Good evening, good evening. It is my very great pleasure to welcome you to Memorial Church for this year's Rathbun Lecture on a Meaningful Life. Tonight, we are deeply honored To have as our speaker, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. >> [APPLAUSE] >> This event, this event as you may know has a rich history at Stanford. >> It originated in a lecture that Henry Rathbun, a Stanford law professor in the 1930's through the 1950's, decided to give about the meaning of life, on the last day of his business law class one spring. The lecture was such a success, that it turned into an annual tradition at Stanford for many years, until Professor Rathbun retired. It was revived in 2008, supported by a generous gift to the office of religious life by the foundation for global community, which established the Henry and Emilia Rathbun Fund For exploring what leads to a meaningful life. Each year, a Rathbun visiting fellow is selected to come to Stanford to deliver this lecture and to spend time with our faculty, students, and staff. In a busy world and in a time of great change in our country, This lecture provides us a welcome moment for self-reflection and moral inquiry. We are so fortunate this year to have Ruth Bader Ginsburg as our Rathbun Visiting Fellow. Now, many of you know her by another moniker as the notorious RBG. >> [APPLAUSE] >> That name got it start several years ago when a Tumblr blog put together by an admiring law student >> and it just took off from there. Today, Justice Ginsburg finds herself not only a member of our nation's highest court, but a cultural phenomenon as well. >> [LAUGH] >> Born in Brooklyn, Justice Ginsburg received her bachelor's degree from Cornell University and her law degree from Columbia Law School. >> She was a professor of law at Rutgers university from 1963 to 1972 and at Columbia law school from 1972 to 1980. In 1971, she cofounded the women's rights project of the American Civil Liberties Union. And she served as the ACLU's general council from 1973 to 1980. She was appointed to the United States court of appeal, for the District of Columbia's circuit in 1980. President Clinton then nominated her as an associate justice of the Supreme Court, and she took her seat on the court in 1993. These biographical facts come nowhere close to adequately describing the person who is with us tonight. There really aren't sufficient words to describe the impact she has had on the law and on the advancement of women's rights in In America. Trailblazing, pioneering, daring, they're all true, but they still don't capture it. Justice Ginsberg went to law school in an era, the 1950s, when very few women did. She faced enormous challenges as a woman and as a mother. In pursuing her career in that era. She then turned her career to the cause of battling discrimination on behalf of women and families everywhere. At Columbia Law School, she became the school's first tenured female professor. At the Women's Rights Project, she argued six cases before the Supreme Court. She played an absolutely central role in establishing contemporary law on equal protection as it relates to equality between the sexes. Many in fact have called her the Thurgood Marshall of women's rights. She was the second woman to join United States supreme court, serving at the time with Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who has also been a Rathbun visiting fellow with us here at Stanford. Justice Ginsburg will be in conversation tonight with Dean Jane Shaw, Dean for Religious Life and Professor of Religious Studies here at Stanford. Professor Shaw previously taught history and theology at Oxford for 16 years and just before coming to Stanford, she was the Dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. We look forward to insightful and engaging conversation. And now, if you will, please wel-, join me in welcoming to Stanford, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. >> [APPLAUSE] >> [APPLAUSE] >> Thank you, thank you. >> [APPLAUSE] >> [APPLAUSE] >> [APPLAUSE] Please be seated. >> [APPLAUSE] >> [APPLAUSE] Thank you, thank you very much. But please be seated. [APPLAUSE] I thought it might be an appropriate beginning for me to tell you a little bit about my life and what I'm going to say to you comes from a book called "My Own Words". It's the preface all in my own words. Did you always want to be a judge? Or more exorbitantly, a Supreme Court Justice? School children who visit me at the court as they do at least weekly, ask that question more than any other. It is a sign of huge progress made to today's youth Judgeship as an aspiration for a girl is not at all outlandish. Contrast the ancient days in 1956 when I entered Law School. Women within less than 3% of the lawyers in the United States And only one woman had ever served on a federal appellate court. She was Florence Allen, appointed by Franklin Deleanor Roosevelt to the U.S. court of appeals for the sixth circuit in 1934. By the time I got to law school, she was retired and then there were none. Today, about half the nation's law students and more than one third of our federal judges are women, including three of the nine seated on the US Supreme Court bench. Women hold more than 30% of US law school deanship And serve as general counsel to 24% of Fortune 500 companies. In my long life, I have seen great changes. How fortunate I was to be alive and unaware when, for the first time in U.S. history, It became possible to urge successfully before legislatures and courts. The equal citizenship stature of men and women. Now there is a page out of place, so bear with me a moment. It should be Not too far from here. Well, if it's skipped we'll go on to the next one. Where I speak about teachers who influenced or encouraged me in my growing up years. At Cornell University, European Literature Professor Vladimir Nabokov, he changed the way I read and the way I write. Words could paint pictures, I learned from him. Choosing the right word in the right word order, he illustrated, could make an enormous difference, in conveying an image or an idea. From constitutional law professor, Robert E Cushman, and American ideals professor, Milton Konvitz, I learned of our nations enduring values. And how our Congress was strained for them, from them in the Red Scare years of the 1950s. But also how lawyers could remind lawmakers that our Constitution shields the right to think, speak, and write. Without fear of reprisal from government authorities. At Harvard Law School, Professor Benjamin Kaplan was my first and favorite teacher. He use the Socratic method in his Civil Procedure class, always to stimulate, never to wound. Kaplan was the model I tried to follow in my, my own law teaching years from 1963 until 1980. At Columbia Law School Professor of Constitutional Law and Federal Courts, Caroline Gunther, who later served on the Stanford Law faculty m-, for many years. He was determined to place me in a federal court clerkship despite what was then viewed as a grave impediment. On graduation I was the mother of a four year old child. After heroic efforts, Gunther succeeded in that mission. In later years, litigating cases in or headed to the Supreme Court, I turned to Gunther for aid in dealing with sticky legal issues, both substantive and procedural. He never failed to help me find the right path. Another often asked question, When I speak in public. Do you have some good advice you might share with us? Yes, I do. >> [LAUGH] >> It comes from my Serbian mother in law. Advice she gave me on my wedding day. In every good marriage she counselled, It helps sometimes to be a little deaf. >> [LAUGH] >> I have followed that advice assiduously and not only at home through 56 years of a marital partnership nonpareil. I have employed it as well in every workplace including The Supreme Court of the United States. When a thoughtless or unkind word is spoken, best tune out, reacting in anger or annoyance, will not advance one's ability to persuade. Advice from my father-in-law has also served me well. He gave it during my gap years, 1954 to 1956 when my husband Marty was fulfilling his obligation to the army as an artillery officer at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. By the end of 1954 my pregnancy was confirmed. We looked forward to becoming three in July 1955, but I worried about starting law school the next year with an infant to care for. Father's advice, Ruth, if you don't want to stop law school You have a good reason to resist the undertaking. No one will think the less of you if you make that choice. But if you really want to study law, you will stop worrying and you will find a way to manage child at school. And so Marty and I did By engaging and nanny on school days, from eight to four. Many times after, when the road was rocky, I thought back to father's wisdom, spent no time fretting and found a way to do what I thought was important to get done. Work life balance was a term not yet coined in, in the years my children were young. But it is aptly descriptive of the time distribution I experienced. My success in law school, I have no doubt, was due in large measure To baby Jane, my daughter. I attended classes and studied diligently until four in the afternoon. The next hours were Jane's time. Spent at the park, playing silly games while singing funny songs, reading pictures books and A.A. Milne poems. Bathing and feeding her. After Jane's bedtime, I return to the law books with renewed will. Each part of my life provided respect from the other and gave me a sense of proportion that classmates trained only on the law lacked I have had more than a little bit of luck in life, but nothing equals in magnitude my marriage to Martin D Ginsburg. I do not have words adequate to describe my super-smart, exuberant, ever-loving Spouse. [SOUND] Early on in our marriage it became clear to him that cooking was not my strong suit. To the everlasting appreciation of our food-loving children, we became four in 1965 when son James was born, Marty made the kitchen his domain, and became chef supreme in our home, on loan to friends even at the court. Marty coached me through the birth of our son, he was the first reader and critic of articles, speeches, and briefs I drafted, and he was at my side constantly, in and out of the hospital during two long bouts with cancer. And I betray no secret in reporting that without him, I would not have gained a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. Then associate white house counsel Ron Klain said of my 1993 nomination, I would say definitely for the record, though Ruth Ginsburg should have been picked for the Supreme Court anyway, she would not have been picked if her husband had not done everything he did to make it happen. That everything included, included gaining the unqualified support of my home state Senator, Daniel Patrick Monaghan And enlisting the aid of many members of the legal academy and a practicing bar familiar with work I had done. I have several times said that the office I hold now nearing 24 years is the best and most consuming job a lawyer Anywhere could have. The Court's main job is to repair fractures in federal law, to step in when other courts have disagreed on what the relevant federal law requires. Because the court grants review dominantly when other juris have divided over the meaning of a statute or constitutional prescription, the questions we take up are rarely easy. They seldom have indubitably right answers, Yet by reasoning together at our conferences and with more depth and precision through circulation of, and responses to draft opinions we ultimately agree far more often than we divide sharply. Last term, 2015 to 2016 term, for example, we were unanimous, at least on the bottom-line judgment, in 25 of the 67 cases decided after full briefing and argument. In contrast, we divided five to three, or four to three, Justice Scalia's death reduced the number of justices to eight. We divided sharply only eight times. When a justice is of the firm viewed that the majority got it wrong she is free to say so and dissent. I take advantage of that prerogative. When I think it's important, as do my colleagues. Despite our strong disagreements on cardinal issues, think, for example, of control of political campaign spending, access to the ballot, affirmative action, access to abortion. Same sex marriage, we gen-, genuinely respect each other and even enjoy each other's company. Collegiality is key to success of our mission, we cannot do the job the Constitution assigns to us if we didn't to use one of Justice Scalia's Favorite expressions, get over it. >> [LAUGH] >> All of us revere the constitution and the court. We aimed to ensure that when we leave the court, the third branch of government will be in as good shape as it was when we joined it. Earlier I spoke of great changes I have seen in women's occupations. Yet one must acknowledge the still bleak part of the picture. Most people in poverty in the United States and the world over are women and children. Women's earnings, here and abroad, trail the earnings of men with comparitable education and experience. Our workplaces do not adequately accommodate the demands of childbearing and child rearing. And we have yet to devise Effective ways to ward off sexual harassment at work, and domestic violence in our homes. But I am optimistic that the movement toward enlisting the talents of all who compose, we the people will continue As expressed by my brave colleague, the first woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, for both men and women, the first step in getting power is to become visible to others, and then, to put on an impressive show. As women achieve power, the barriers will fall. As society sees what women can do, as women see what women can do, there will be more women out there doing things and we'll all be better off for it. To that ex-, expectation I can only say amen. [LAUGH] [APPLAUSE] [APPLAUSE] >> [INAUDIBLE] >> [APPLAUSE] >> So justice Ginsburg, it's a huge pleasure and honor to have you with us, thank you so much for accepting our invitation to be the visiting Rathbun fellow. As you know, the Rathbun program is designed to foster thinking about what it means to lead a meaningful life. And you've said some things about that already but could you encapsulate what it means to lead a meaningful life for you? >> To put it simply, it means doing something outside yourself. I tell the law students, I, I address now and then. If you're going to be a lawyer, and just practice your profession, well you have a skill, so you're very much like a plumber. >> [LAUGH] >> But if you want to be a true professional, you will do something outside yourself >> Something to repair. Tears in your community. Something to make life a little better for people less fortunate than you. That's what I think a meaningful life is. One lives not just for oneself But for one's community. >> That's, that's wonderful thank you and do you think that's the same as a purposeful life? >> Yes, I think the purpose is what you aim, what you aim for. >> How has family played a part in your own life? And your own meaning in your life? It plays a very large part. It's one of the things drew Justice Scalia and me together because we both care a lot about families. I saw a big change In life in the United States between the birth of my daughter in 1955 and my son in 1965. When my daughter Jane started school I was one of a very few working moms. Ten years later, there had been an enormous change. It was not all unusual to have to run a families by the middle 60s. And that made me realize that it would be possible for the first time in history to move the law. In the direction of what I call equal citizenship stature for men and women. >> So talk a little bit about that. Talk about your own experience and how that led you to that work. >> In >> The days when I went to law school my entering class at Harvard was over five hundred students and only nine were women. There was no anti-discrimination law so employers were totally upfront in saying We don't want any lady lawyers here or we once hired a woman and she was dreadful. And how many men have you hired that didn't live up to your expectations for them? >> [LAUGH] >> Anyway that's >> That's what, things, things we didn't complain about. So for example, Harvard law school we had nine women, there were two teaching buildings at that time. Only one of them had a woman's bathroom. So you can imagine if you were in class is one thing, much worse you're taking your three or four hour exam >> And had to make a mad dash to the other building. But the thing of it was, we never complained. That's just the way things were. But by the late 60s, the feminist movement had revived in the United States, in part as a result of the civil rights movement. But also As part of a worldwide movement, the UN had declared International Women's Year. Things were changing all over. And so it became possible to break down, what is referred to as the separate spheres mentality, that is The woman's place was with the family, taking care of the home, and the man's place was outside, he was the representative of the family outside the home, and many of our laws were designed to fit that model of the stay at home woman and they were for day men. So that's in the decade of the 70s, almost all of the laws of that kind were gone. >> Would you like to talk about one or two of the cases that you think were most important in that. Well maybe I can speak about two cases. And the first one was the turning point case. If I go back, up until 1971, the Supreme Court never saw a gender base classification, that it didn't think Was okay. So if we take the years of the liberal Warren court, and there's a case called Hoyt against Florida, Gwendolyn Hoyt was what we would today call an abused, battered woman. Her abusive and philandering husband one day had humiliated her to the breaking point. She spied her young son's baseball bat in the corner of the room lifted it up. And with all her might hit him over the head. He fell on the stone floor. End of their altercation, beginning of the murder prosecution, well in those days in Hillsborough county, they didn't put women on juries. Gwendolyn Hoyt thought was something wrong about that. Not that a jury including women would have acquitted her but she thought they might. Better understand her state of mind, her rage at that moment. And maybe they would convict her of the lesser crime of manslaughter instead of murder. She was convicted of murder. And when the case came to the Supreme Court challenging the absence of women on the jury rolls The court's attitude was Gwendolyn Hoyt, women have the best of both worlds. We don't call them for jury duty, but if they come into the clerk's office and sign up, we'll put them there. Well how many women do you, men do you think would sign up? If they had the choice. So the Supreme Court didn't get it, and the case before it, Goesaert against Cleary, was a case of a woman who owned a tavern and her daughter was her bartender. The state of Michigan perhaps with the encouragement of the bartender's league Passed a law that said a woman couldn't tend bar unless she was the wife or daughter of the bar owner. The Supreme Court treated that case as part of the backing away from attempting to put down economic and social legislation. And that's how the case was taught when I went to law school. It was a retreat from the days of the nine old men, who gave, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt such a hard time. He thought about packing the court. So that's what the precedent was and I described it as anything goes. Then Sally Reid came along, Sally, had a young son. She and her husband separated and then later divorced. When the boy was with the law calls of tender years, Sally was given custody. When the boy reached his teens, the father came to the family court and said now this boy needs to be prepared for a man's world. So I should be the custodian. Sally, was distressed, and sadly she turned out to be right. The boy became solely depressed, and one day took out one of his father's mini guns and committed suicide. So Sally wanted to be appointed administrator of his estate. Not for any monetary reasons, there was barely anything there but for sentimental reasons. Her ex-husband applied a couple of weeks later. The probate Court Judge told Sally, Sally was from Boise, Idaho. The law of the state of Idaho, which Idaho might toppy from California, but California had already changed its law. It read as between persons equally entitled to administer a decedent's estate, males Must be preferred to females. Well there was an obvious reason for that because in the days before married woman's property acts were passed, a woman couldn't contract in her own name. She would be sued for her own property. So if you had a choice between The man, the abled man and the disabled woman, naturally, we made sense to choose the man. Sally Reid thought that was wrong. She was an everyday wo, woman who made her living by caring for elderly or infirmed people in her house. She, she thought it was wrong and that we had a legal system that could set it right. So on her own dime, she took that case to three levels of the court in Idaho and it became the turning point. In the Supreme Court. And after that there were a succession of cases, some brought by women, some by men. So if I can tell you my second case, which is a rival for my favorite, is Steven Wiesenfeld, whose wife was a math teacher in high school. She had a healthy pregnancy The doctor came out to tell Stephen Wiesenfeld that he had delivered a healthy baby boy but that his wife had died of an embolism. Stephen was distressed. He vowed then that he would not work full time, til his child was in school full time. And he figured out that between part time earnings and social security earnings, he could just about make it. He went to the social security office, for what he thought were child in care benefits And he was told, we're sorry Mr. Wiesenfeld, these are mother's benefits. That case came to the Supreme Court, there was, yet unanimous judgment but the court divided three ways on reason for the majority thought. Of course, this is discrimination against the woman as wage earner. She pays the same Social Security taxes as a male wager, but they don't net for her family the same protection. A few thought of it was discrimination against the male as parent, because he would have no choice. But to work full time. He would not have the choice of taking care of his child personally. And then one, a man who later became my chief, he was then Justice Rehnquist. He said this is totally arbitrary from the point of view of the baby. Why should the baby have the care of a sole surviving parent if the parent is female, but not if the parent was male. That case was a perfect illustration of what was wrong with the separate spheres of mentality. The women working outside the home Did not get equal pay. The man didn't have the choice to be a caring parent. And the baby would not have the benefit of the love and care of his father. All of these cases, none of them were test cases in the sense that the American civilities union, with whom I was affiliated, went out to find plaintiffs. They were just everyday people, who thought something wrong had been done, and who believed that we had a legal system that would respond to that wrong. So what you think has to be done now still? >> Well I, I describe the 70s, though in those years, both legislatures and courts, rid the statued books of almost all of the over >> Gender-based classifications. What was left when the overt sex lines were eliminated was unconscious bias. People who didn't think of themselves as Prejudice in any way. And my classic example for that is the symphony orchestra. Growing up, I never saw a woman in a symphony orchestra. Someone came up with the bright idea, let's drop a curtain between. The people who are auditioning and the judges. They work like magic. >> [LAUGH] >> Almost overnight women [LAUGH] were making their way into symphony. Symphony orchestras. Now, I wish we could duplicate the drop curtain in every area but it, it isn't that easy. The, other illustration that I give is a title seven case from the 70s against AT&T for not promoting women to jobs in middle management. So the women who applied Did well on all the standard measures and they made it to the last step which was called the total person test. That was an interview, interviewing the candidate for promotion. Women dropped out disproportionately. They flunked the total person test, why? Because the interviewer was almost, always a white male, Was discomforted, someone, someone unfamiliar, a member of a minority race, a woman didn't really feel at ease, by confronting with someone who looked just like him. That was felt in his comfort zone. How you get past that kind of Unconscious bias. It remains even today. A difficulty. >> So, let me change subjects. And because you just mentioned symphonies, you love opera, famously love opera. I think you're very keen on the visual arts. I know you have some favorite artists. You talked a bit earlier about how, how in the book of was very influential on you, on your reading and writing. So you can talk a bit about the place of the arts and humanities in a meaningful life. Why are they important to you? >> They are ess-, essential. Yes, opera is my passion and I, can I tell them about an opera that was written by a law student? Yes. A couple of years ago. It's called Scalia Ginsburg. >> [LAUGH] >> This is a very talented musician who had been a music major at Harvard and had an MA from Yale and then decided that in his field it would be helpful to know a little bit about the law. So he enrolled in law school and he's taking constitutional law and reading these dual opinions, Ginsburg Scalia, Ginsburg for the majority, Scalia in dissent, Scalia in the majority, Ginsburg in dissent, and he decides this could make a very funny comic opera. [LAUGH] >> So it opens with a rage aria. Very Handelian rage aria Scalia sings. The justices are blind. How can they possibly spout this? The Constitution says absolutely nothing about this. And then I sing in return that he is searching for bright line solutions to problems that don't have easy answers, but the great thing about our constitution is that like our society, it can evolve. The plot is roughly based on the magic flute. Justice Scalia >> [LAUGH] He is, he is >> locked in a dark room where he's being punished for excessive dissenting. >> [LAUGH] >> I enter through a glass ceiling to help him get out. >> [LAUGH] >> [LAUGH] And, and the, the, the, the figure, that locks him up is the commentatore, a little resemblance to Don Giovanni's commendatore, but anyway. Commentatore say, why would you want to help him? He's your enemy. I said, no. He's my >> Dear friend. And then we sing a duet that goes. >> [LAUGH] >> We are different, we are one. What is different in our approach to reading legal texts but one in our reverence for the Constitution and the institution that we serve. So [CROSSTALK] Sorry, carry on. >> So, yes opera is my passion but I also love theater. The District of Columbia is blessed with a number of fine museums, most recently African American Museum. In the years I was on the DC Circuit, 13 years, the national gallery was right across the street. So, I said pick my room instead of lunch and feel that I was in my own palace. There were never the crowds there, that, as there were at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. >> So, in England, theres a BBC radio program called Desert Island Discs, in which you get to choose eight pieces of music to take to a desert island. We don't have time for eight today. >> But perhaps you could choose one that couldn't live without if you were on a desert island. >> Well I have to pick two, and and- >> You don't have to pick two, two is fine. >> [LAUGH] >> So, those are recordings of Mozart, The Marriage of Figaro. >> Mm-hm. >> And Don Giovanni. >> Great. Good choice. >> [LAUGH] >> You talked about the opera about you and Justice Scalia, which is part, and it's part of your, the importance you give to collegiality. And you talk a lot about the ways in which, you and your colleagues on the court are very collegial to each other. You shake hands in the morning, you eat meals together. How do you think we can expand that kind of collegiality to a broader civil and public discourse? >> [LAUGH] [CROSSTALK] How can we disagree well? >> When I was growing up, the first branch was very different than it is today, and that persisted >> I would think back to 1993, when the president, Clinton, nominated me with a good job I now hold. I had been general council to American civil liberties union for several years. The vote was 96 to 3 in my favor My biggest supporter on the judiciary committee was not the then chair, Senator Biden. Although he was certainly in my favor. But it was Orrin Hatch. I think today he wouldn't touch me with a ten foot pole. >> [LAUGH] That isn't that >> We have, we have >> [LAUGH] >> We are still friends. >> Yes. >> But if it came to a vote on me, I, I don't think he would be the supporter that he was in 1993. And it was similar with Stephen Breyer, when he was nominated the next year. It was well into the 90s, a vote in his favor. It hasn't been that way for the four most recent members of the court. And it's been on both sides of the aisle. I wish there were a way I could wave a magic wand and put it back. When people >> Were respectful of each other, and the congress was working for the good of the country and not just the long party lines. Someday, they'll be great people, great elected representatives who will say enough of this nonsense, let's be the kind of legislature the United States should have. I hope that day will come while I'm still alive. [APPLAUSE] [APPLAUSE] >> So, your husband Marty as you said was a great cook. Eating together is one way that we can have collegiality actually and talk. Well, across differences. Do you have a memorable meal you would like to tell us about? [LAUGH] >> I'll describe one meal that was a great challenge, for Marty. This Scalias and my family celebrated New Year's Eve together. And usually, you know he was a great hunter, he would kill Bambi. And we would have venison. But this particular New Year's he killed a wild boar. [LAUGH] FInally a recipe that would be palatable. [LAUGH] That was a real challenge for Marty but it was- >> But he did? >> He did, yeah. >> Before we're going to open up student questions in a moment, but I, I want to point out the fantastic tote bag you have. Okay. [LAUGH] Which says, "I dissent" >> [LAUGH] >> Which is, and it's got me on the other side. >> [LAUGH] [APPLAUSE]. >> This is, this is the name of a book >> By Debbie Levy, who is a lawyer, but decided all things considered she'd rather write children's books, and she's been very successful, and the publisher liked her books so much that they made these tote bags >> I personally love it that Justice Ginsburg is carrying the tote bag. >> [LAUGH] >> So how is it to be, you know because of, also because of the book, the Notorious RBG, you, you are known to every generation including quite small children and you are not just a public figure. You are >> An amazing public figure to every generation. How is that? [LAUGH] >> You know what was copied for the Notorious RBG. It's the Notorious BIG. >> Yes. >> Famous rapper >> Yes. >> And when I was told that this was the tumbler that these two law students had created, I said well, perfectly understandable. We have one thing in common. You have something in common with Notorious BIG? Of course, we were both born and bred in Brooklyn, New York. [LAUGHTER] But it's, it's that starting that Tumblr I think is a good example of how young people should react to things they don't like. So, this was a second year student at NYU Law School and when the Supreme Court decided the Shelby County case, this was a case that declared a key part of the voting rights act of 1965 unconstitutional, she was angry. And then, she decided anger is a useless emotion. It doesn't Advance your cause. So then she decided she would start this Tumblr, and it began with my dissenting opinion in the Shelby County case. And then it took off into the wild blue yonder from there. >> [LAUGH] So you are a role model for many >> That's an understatement. You are a role model for many, many, many people. Who have your role models been? Because you lost the page where you talk about them so I'm giving you the chance to talk about them now. [LAUGH] >> Growing up, there weren't too many, because women were hardly there, so I had one real and one fictitious. >> Role model, the real one was Amelia Earhart. >> Yes. >> The fictitious one was Nancy Drew. >> [LAUGH] [APPLAUSE] >> But later in life, I had the good fortune to meet the first woman ever to serve on a US >> District Court. She was Burnita Shelton Matthews. By the time I got to the D.C. Circuit, she was in her 90s. And I would lunch with her whenever I could to hear her stories. She had been counsel to the National Woman's Party >> She was going to law school at night. She participated in the, in the suffragist parades, and she picketed the White House, but she would never say a word. She would hold up her sign, votes for women, and not speak if she was hassled by the police. Because she didn't want to risk her chances for admission to the barn. Well it happened that when Chief Justice Taft decided the supreme court should not be housed inside the capital as it was until 1935 but she's have its own building. The site on which the Supreme Court now stands was occupied, a good part of it, by the headquarters of the National Women's Party. So, the government condemned the property. And argued, this is just a ramshackle old building, it's not worth anything. Burnita Shelton Matthews, whose specialty was eminent domain, She called as a witness a member of the older inhabitants of DC, who testified That not only was, that site the temporally capital, when capital burned, in the war of 1812, it was also, a prison for notorious confederate spies. The government was still not have none of it. She produced a photograph. Of, a most notorious Confederate spy happened to be a woman inside that building. The government caved, and Burnita Shelton Matthews won for the National Woman's Party the largest condemnation award that the U.S. government up till that time had ever paid. >> [LAUGH] >> She was a woman from Mississippi, so she spoke with a soft southern accent. She wore a lace collar and cuffs but she was a woman of real steel. >> And you think what it was like, for me, it was a piece of cake in comparison to what it was like for those women. >> And mentors? >> Mentors. Well, there were no, no women were teaching in law schools when I went to law school, no women were teaching in the arts college at Cornell. But I did mention my dear teacher at Harvard, the first class I ever took was civil procedure. And I was captivated by the way the class was Conducted. There, there was a woman I met much later. She was a Stanford graduate. Her name was Shirley Mount Hufstedler. She was a judge on the US court of appeals for the ninth circuit. The second in history. I've mentioned Florence Allen in 1934. Though Shirley was the second. She was appointed by President Johnson. And then President Carter. Made her the first ever secretary of the Department of Education. So she was, she started and she launched that department and did an excellent job. And it was more than rumoured that if Connor had a vacancy on the Supreme Court, Shirley Hufstedler would, would fill it. She was such a great lady, When it turned out that Carter would not have, a supreme court seat to fill, he did have a reception in her honor. And he invited all the women he had appointed, over 25 to district courts 11 to courts of appeals. And he said at that reception, that he hoped he would be remembered in history for changing the complexion Of the Federal Judiciary. He did and no President ever went back to the way it once was. So Shirley, when I got to know her, was what you would call a role model, or a mentor. And you've been very good at saying, how important that is to do that for other women throughout your career. >> Yes. >> Yes. Yeah. Thank you for that. >> [LAUGH] >> I think there are lots of students who would like to ask questions. So, I'm going to just invite students to come and do that, to come to the central microphone, but I need to just remind you of a few grand rules. Please state your name and what class you're in. Are you a freshman? Are you a sophomore? Are you a graduate student? Please ask only one question. Express the question as briefly as you can. And however passionate you are, please resist the urge to make a statement as well. >> [LAUGH] >> That way more of your classmates can ask more questions. May I also say that we, we are all delighted that Justice Ginsburg is here. And so we'll take that as a given so you don't need to preface every question with how delighted you are. I think she knows. That way too we can have more questions. So thank you for that. Justice Ginsburg has also asked me to remind you that she cannot answer questions on certain topics as follows. She cannot answer any question about any issue pending before the court. or likely to come before the court, which would include the legality of recent executive orders. >> [LAUGH] >> She's just not allowed to talk about it, okay? >> [LAUGH] >> And nor can she make any comment on the current nominee to the Supreme Court. So, if you can observe those rules that will be great because then she wouldn't have to say no to you. Thank you. So first questions, are they ready? Just have to put your hand up and come to the center. I think someone's going to help. But in the meantime, I think someone's going to also help fix Justice Ginsburg's microphone a little bit [INAUDIBLE] I have many questions. If students don't have any questions, I can just keep going. [INAUDIBLE] >> Hi. My name is Alice. I'm a graduate student here, not in the law school. I wanted to ask you what would you recommend right now for the young people that we are around here to get involved in those issues that are floating right now or in more general the issues of women rights and That are around I guess? >> We have a diversity of public interest groups in the United States. If I would take my own example, so I was a flaming feminist and the question was, how could I make a difference? I decided that. I would affiliate with the American Civil Liberties Union because it was then the principal civil liberties defender in the United States. It had up to land concerned itself with first amendment questions free speech, press, freedom of religion. But I thought it was appropriate for it to get into the business of equality, both racial and gender. So it's hard to do anything alone, but if you get together with like-minded people, join organizations. If your passion is the environment, there are any number of organizations that you can affiliate with. >> Hello, my name is Jorge Cuerto, and I'm a masters student in computer science. My question is, 100 years from now, when people are talking about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, what do you want them to remember? >> That I was a judge. >> [LAUGH] >> [LAUGH] >> [APPLAUSE] >> Who worked >> As hard as she could. To the best of her ability, to do the job right. [applause] [APPLAUSE] >> Hi, may name is Sasha Lendower and I'm a freshman. I was wondering you spoke about the importance of deafness both in your marriage and on the court kind of selectively. So how would you balance that with a, like hearing and speaking out against things that seem wrong to you? >> How did I balance >> Like your ability to be deaf to certain things. >> I really do think she's- >> She's asking, you you you you gave the advice that I think your mother in law had given you on your wedding night. >> Yes, yes. >> Which is choose to be deaf sometimes. >> Yes, yes. >> How do you balance that with when you need to speak out? So how do you- >> Being deaf is what other people say, not [LAUGH] not to what I say, but if you- >> [LAUGH] >> [LAUGH] And I had to say, the one thing you don't do is, is, is react in anger or annoyance. A sense of humor helps enormously. So for example, I was arguing a case before a three judge Federal Court in Trenton, New Jersey. It was a gender discrimination case, and one of the judges asked me a question. He said, well I thought women have an equal chance today? Why even in the military they do. So I answered, your honor, the air force still doesn't give flight training to women. He responded, my dear. Don't tell me that. Women have been in the air Forever, I know from experience with my own wife and daughter. >> [LAUGH] >> So what does one do? You don't say you sexist pig. >> [LAUGH] >> You say, yes your honor and I know many men who don't have their feet planted >> firmly on the ground and then you race ahead with your argument. >> [LAUGH] [APPLAUSE] >> Hi, I'm Jordan I'm a freshman. I'm was wondering how you define your relationship with other female justices on the court. >> and how female friendships have propped you up throughout your life. >> Sandra Day O'Connor was the closest, I did have a big sister but she died when I was very young, so, Sandra was as close to being a big sister to me, as one, one could wish for. >> When I was a new Justice, she didn't try to douse me with lots of information, she just told me what I needed to know to get by those first few weeks. And she was important to me and, in 1999, I had colorectal cancer. And Sandra had breast cancer and was on the bench nine days after her massive surgery. She advised me. First, she said, "You're going to get so much mail, so many well wishes, don't try to answer any of it. Just concentrate on, on getting well." I felt that I had to show up on that first Monday, in, in October. >> I had two weeks between my surgery and when court began. And then Sandra said, so you're having chemotherapy. Be sure to schedule it for Friday, so you can get over it during the weekend. >> [LAUGH] >> She also had excellent rapport with, our, >> our chief, in fact it was rumored, not only where they built it, Stanford law school, at the same time, but that he had once dated her. [LAUGH] And now my, my. Female colleagues that just granted, have them there. If you came to an argument these days, you would see that Justice Sotomayor and Justice Kagan are not shrinking violets. They're very active in the colloquy that goes on at oral arguing. During the years Justice Scalia and Sotomayer overlapped, they were in competition for the justice who asked the most questions at oral arguing. Justice Scalia generally edged her out just by a bit, but, but nowadays she wins hands down. >> [LAUGH] >> Hello, my name is Priya and I'm a freshmen. >> I was wondering if, any of the ways in which you approached adversity in your professional career helped you, and, combatting any challenges you face as a mother and in your courageous battle with cancer? >> It's never to have a defeatous attitude. I told the story earlier this afternoon about my model, when I had pancreatic cancer, was the great Mezzo-soprano, Marilyn Horn. When she was diagnosed with that often deadly disease, she said, I will live. Not that I hope to live. So that was my attitude too. I was, I was going to beat this. One of the things I did and after the colorectals >> Cancer bout. I did a few, public, public interest announcements, because I was trying to encourage women to get colonoscopies. Women think of breast cancer and they think of ovarian cancer but they don't realize that a killer of women colorectal cancer can be. So and the attitude is, I'm going to surmount this, whatever, whatever it is. The same thing when my husband had cancer at a very young age. We never thought about the possibility of giving up. We just took each day at a time then did the best we could. [APPLAUSE] My name is Aliya, I'm a junior. I was, raised on a small tribal community in New Mexico named Santo Domingo Pueblo. And when I was in high school, Justice Sotomayor visited and this affected me greatly, seeing a woman of color speaking to my community. My question is, what communities do you aim to speak to? And what types of people do you aim to inspire? >> What kind of people do I speak to? I speak to students from second grade to the postgraduate level. We're often visited by school groups. I must visit about half a dozen law schools every year. Just before I came to Stanford, I was at the Virginia Military Institute that has done a great job of integrating women. And Washington and Lee, its, its neighbor, neighbor school. >> Thank you. >> Thank you. >> Hi, I'm Molly and I'm a sophomore here and my question for you, is I find myself in arguments a lot and I'm curious to know how >> You see best to construct a sound argument that is purposeful in, persuading people from the other side to kind of get on board with you. >> [LAUGH] >> We are try-, trying to persuade each other. All the time. It begins when we are considering what request for you to grant. Then at oral argument, very often questions are asked, not so much to listen to the response from the lawyer but to influence a colleague's thinking. Then we have our conference, which doesn't run on very long, where we each go around the table and say how we think the case should come out. And then it continues and sometimes if you can't be persuasive orally, your writing. May be persuasive. And I was once assigned a dissent by my senior colleague, John Paul Stevens. It was a dissent for two. And in the fullness of time, that decision came down six to three. The two had swelled to six. So every time I'm in dissent, I'm hoping that they will be a repeat. [LAUGH] it hasn't yet happened but >> [LAUGH] >> But hope springs eternal. >> My name is Julia, I'm a graduate student >> Has there ever been a time since you've been on the supreme court where you took a side of that was opposite your personal morals because you thought the constitution was on the other side? >> If I were queen, there would be no death penalty. But I take part, I don't do what Justice Marshall and Breyer did, said death penalty under any and all circumstances is a violation of the 8th amendment ban on cruel or unusual punishment. Instead, I, I take part in those arguments. And do the best I can. To move the law in the direction in which it seems to be going. I think I mentioned earlier that last year across the country there were only 20 executions compared with 98 ten years ago. And there were only five states in the United States, that held executions even within those five states, only particular counties. >> Hello, my name is Chinadoon. I'm a junior from Nigeria and I'm studying chemical engineering. And my question is what role do you see the court playing, like you mentioned, you want to see a reversal of the rising polarization we have in society now, do you think the Supreme Court should play a more vocal role in speaking to the public and reaching out, rather than this more recessed role they've traditionally held in society? >> The Supreme Court, unlike the political branches of government, is a totally reactive institution, as a one fine court of appeals judge said. The federal judges don't make the conflagrations, they do what they can to put them out. So we never can, we don't have an agenda. This year, we're going to take care of say, same sex marriage or voter IDs. We respond to petitions that come up in cases that begin at least two levels before. So the first thing I will read to inform myself is what other judges have said about the case, what the trial court judge said, the court of appeals. So we don't yet have any agenda of our own, we take cases when and I said in my opening remarks when other courts divide on what the law of the United States is, that's what we see as our principle mission. To keep the law of the United States, more or less, uniform. Hi, my name's Biel McCauley and I'm a first year law school student. This is kind of a constitutional law question, but I was wondering, do you to any extent believe that the presence of law enforcement officials at a peaceful protest or rally, impinges on people's first amendment rights? Do I think the presence of law enforcement officers at protests. If they're well trained, if they know that people have the right to speak their minds. They're there to make sure that there is no violence So I think properly trained police are tremendously important. I think in recent protest in Washington DC we saw that working very well with police respectful. Of the people who had come to protest. >> Hi, I'm Jonathon, I'm a freshman. You and Justice Scalia were obviously very good friends, almost family, so what would you say were the biggest lessons you guys taught each other. The, we, we both thought it was important not only to get to the right result, but to write in such a way, that at least other judges and lawyers, and hopefully, more than that. It would, would understand, we sometimes, as I would sometimes criticize an opinion of his in draft and say this is so over the top, you're not going to be as persuasive. I couldn't always persuade him to tone it down but [LAUGHTER] and he would correct my grammatical errors [LAUGHTER]. [LAUGH] >> Hello, my name is Brittany Stinson. You've obviously been a part of, and witness to, many advancements for women. What do you think is the biggest threat facing women and gender equity today? I mentioned the problem of unconscious bias. That's not so easy to overcome. Work life balance is another, we don't have, in the world of employment, nearly The flexibility that we should have. I, I had envisioned that in the days in this electronic age, when for example, you have the entire law library at your fingertips, that it would be much easier for employers to, to accommodate But it will take women and men who care about this to make the change in the law firm mentality. I know that it's possible because I was married to a man who was a partner in a very large law firm Everyone in the tax department which he headed. Everyone was gone by 7 was that was the time to go home for dinner. In other departments, the culture was that you, you have dinner at the firm, you come back, work. It can be done and I think the law firms will be much healthier places and do as well financially if they, if they accommodate their employees and make it possible to have a balanced life. My name is Jessi Dolman and I'm a junior here. I was wondering as it applies to both individual lives and the processes of justice do you believe in fate or do you believe that we are the masters of our own faith? Both. >> [LAUGH] >> Is there like a percentage there or is that a solid [CROSSTALK]? >> I worked hard to do the best I can, but a little bit of luck, a little bit of divine grace can certainly help. My name is and I am a PhD student in Chinese Literature. So in the Silicon Valley, people are very optimistic about the potentials of Artificial Intelligence. Some speculate that increasing automation, there'll be less and less jobs and they suggest the idea of universal basic income. As a justice, what do you think of that idea? Thank you. >> I think it is, it is >> A grave concern, I think we have to do a much better job than we do now to educate students into what they can do with their lives, to have the skills, to be part of this electronic age. >> Hi, my name is Dustin, and I'm a senior. And recently with all the change that's been happening, a lot of people have been expressing encouragement that you eat more kale, so to speak. [LAUGH] So that you can continue doing the public service work that you're doing for as long as possible and, to that tune, I, I was wondering who do you want to eat more kale in Washington? >> Who, who? [LAUGH] Justice Kennedy [LAUGH] [APPLAUSE] [APPLAUSE] >> There are a three of us on the current court who are well beyond what the french call a certain age well being. >> [LAUGH] >> So it's Justice Breyer, the youngest, and then the two octogenarians, Justice Kennedy >> And me. [LAUGH] A very important part of my life is my personal trainer, who has been with me since 1999, and now also trains Justice Kagan, and most recently, Justice Breyer. [LAUGH] My name is Cole Goldman. I'm majoring in human biology. I'm a sophomore. You've talked much today about your friendship with Justice Scalia. Scalia. >> Scalia. >> Do you have a favorite dispute with him that you remember especially fondly? Do I have a favorite? >> Dispute. >> His ascending in opinion, in, the Virginia Military Institute case, is quite over, over the top. >> [LAUGH] >> We were, exchanging drafts. >> I should tell, this is a good example of, of our relationship. So I circulated the opinion for the court, I'm about to go off to my circuit judicial conference, when Scalia comes into my chambers and throws down a sheaf of paper. And says, Ruth, this is the penultimate draft, by dissent in the VMI case. It's not quite ready to circulate to the court, but I wanted to give you as much time as I can to respond. So I took it on the plane. It absolutely ruined my weekend. >> [LAUGH] >> But I appreciated the extra time I had. Well, in a way of bit too much, so I'm quoting The University of Virginia case. It wasn't until 1970 that the University of Virginia at Charlottesville began to admit women. So, there was a case in the district court, and I referred to the University of Virginia at Charlottesville. Footnote comes back. There is no University of Virginia at Charlottesville. There is only the University of Virginia. Then I put the University of Virginia at Charlottesville in quotations. Quoting from Judge Marriage, who is a very fine District Judge in the eastern district of Virginia made no difference. He still, he still kept it. >> We have time for one more question. >> What an honor. Justice Ginsburg. Justice Ginsburg, I'm Park, a sophomore studying computer science. Today, you remarked that a great thing about the Constitution is that it can even evolve with the society. At the same time, I think there are core values of this nation that must be remembered and protected especially these days. So my question is, which beliefs and values of this society do you believe must be changed? Which ones must remain and how do you distinguish one from the other? >> [APPLAUSE] >> Well, some things that I would like to change. One is the electoral college but that was >> [APPLAUSE] >> [APPLAUSE] That would be why our constitutional amendment, which is amending our constitution is powerfully hard to do, as I know from the struggle for the equal rights amendment, which fell three states >> shy. What do I think is enduring? Congress shall pass no law respecting freedom of speech of the press. That right to speak your mind and not worry about Big brother government coming down on you and telling you the right way to think, speak and write. That's tremendously important. I got to see how important it was when I was going to college in the heyday of Senator McCarthy, and our country was straying from its most basic values. But they were people, many of them lawyers, who helped bring us back to the way it should be. Equality, nor shall any state deny to any person, the equal protection of the laws. An idea that was included in the constitution in 1868. The 14th amendment. It's not in the original Constitution. I think most of you know why. Although, our Declaration of Independence says all men are created equal, you couldn't put an equality norm in the original Constitution or in the Bill of Rights. Because of the stain of slavery. So now I think the, the notion I, I explain it in terms of the opening words of the constitution, we the people of the United States in order to perform, to form a more perfect union. So we start with we the people in 1787. A rather small class, they are white, they are male, and they own property. Look at We the People today, all the people who are excluded, from people who are held in human bondage, Native Americans were not part of We the People. Women were not part of the political constituency until 1920, when the 19th Amendment finally wa, was adopted. So that the idea that We the People is an embracive term that covers everyone who dwells in this fair land. And that's a, a major Major theme of our constitution, today. >> It's also a very good note on which to end. Thank you very much. >> [APPLAUSE] >> [APPLAUSE] So much! Thank you! Thank you! >> [APPLAUSE]. [APPLAUSE] >> For more, please visit us at


Early life and education

Joan Ruth Bader was born on March 15, 1933, in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, the second daughter of Celia (née Amster) and Nathan Bader, who lived in the Flatbush neighborhood. Her father was a Jewish emigrant from Odessa, Ukraine, then in the Russian Empire, and her mother was born in New York to Austrian Jewish parents.[3][4][5] The Baders' older daughter Marylin died of meningitis at age six, when Ruth was 14 months old.[1]:3[6][7] The family called Joan Ruth "Kiki", a nickname Marylin had given her for being "a kicky baby".[1]:3[8] When "Kiki" started school, Celia discovered that her daughter's class had several other girls named Joan, so Celia suggested that the teacher call her daughter "Ruth" to avoid confusion.[1]:3 Although not devout, the Bader family belonged to East Midwood Jewish Center, a Conservative synagogue, where Ruth learned tenets of the Jewish faith and gained familiarity with the Hebrew language.[1]:14–15 At age 13, Ruth acted as the "camp rabbi" at a Jewish summer program at Camp Che-Na-Wah in Minerva, New York.[8]

Celia took an active role in her daughter's education, often taking her to the library.[8] Celia had been a good student in her youth, graduating from high school at age 15, yet she could not further her own education because her family instead chose to send her brother to college. Celia wanted her daughter to get more education, which she thought would allow Ruth to become a high school history teacher.[9] Ruth attended James Madison High School, whose law program later dedicated a courtroom in her honor. Celia struggled with cancer throughout Ruth's high school years and died the day before Ruth's high school graduation.[8]

Bader attended Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, where she was a member of Alpha Epsilon Phi.[10] While at Cornell, she met Martin D. Ginsburg at age 17.[9] She graduated from Cornell with a bachelor of arts degree in government on June 23, 1954. She was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and the highest-ranking female student in her graduating class.[10][11] Bader married Ginsburg a month after her graduation from Cornell. She and Martin moved to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where he was stationed as a Reserve Officers' Training Corps officer in the Army Reserve after his call-up to active duty.[9][12][11] At age 21, she worked for the Social Security Administration office in Oklahoma, where she was demoted after becoming pregnant with her first child.[7] She gave birth to a daughter in 1955.[7]

In the fall of 1956, Ginsburg enrolled at Harvard Law School, where she was one of only nine women in a class of about 500 men.[13][14] The Dean of Harvard Law reportedly asked the female law students, including Ginsburg, "Why are you at Harvard Law School, taking the place of a man?"[15][16] When her husband took a job in New York City, Ginsburg transferred to Columbia Law School and became the first woman to be on two major law reviews: the Harvard Law Review and Columbia Law Review. In 1959, she earned her law degree at Columbia and tied for first in her class.[8][17]

Early career

At the start of her legal career, Ginsburg encountered difficulty in finding employment.[18][19][20] In 1960, Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter rejected Ginsburg for a clerkship position due to her gender. She was rejected despite a strong recommendation from Albert Martin Sacks, who was a professor and later dean of Harvard Law School.[21][22][a] Columbia Law Professor Gerald Gunther also pushed for Judge Edmund L. Palmieri of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to hire Ginsburg as a law clerk, threatening to never recommend another Columbia student to Palmieri if he did not give Ginsburg the opportunity and guaranteeing to provide the judge with a replacement clerk should Ginsburg not succeed.[7][8][23] Later that year, Ginsburg began her clerkship for Judge Palmieri, and she held the position for two years.[7][8]


From 1961 to 1963, Ginsburg was a research associate and then an associate director of the Columbia Law School Project on International Procedure; she learned Swedish to co-author a book with Anders Bruzelius on civil procedure in Sweden.[24][25] Ginsburg conducted extensive research for her book at Lund University in Sweden.[26] Ginsburg's time in Sweden also influenced her thinking on gender equality. She was inspired when she observed the changes in Sweden, where women were 20 to 25 percent of all law students; one of the judges whom Ginsburg watched for her research was eight months pregnant and still working.[9]

Her first position as a professor was at Rutgers Law School in 1963.[27] The appointment was not without its drawbacks; Ginsburg was informed she would be paid less than her male colleagues because she had a husband with a well-paid job.[20] At the time Ginsburg entered academia, she was one of fewer than 20 female law professors in the United States.[27] She was a professor of law, mainly civil procedure, at Rutgers from 1963 to 1972, receiving tenure from the school in 1969.[28][29]

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.[30] From 1972 to 1980, she taught at Columbia, where she became the first tenured woman and co-authored the first law school casebook on sex discrimination.[29] She also spent a year as a fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University from 1977 to 1978.[31]

Litigation and advocacy

Ginsburg in 1977, photographed by Lynn Gilbert.
Ginsburg in 1977, photographed by Lynn Gilbert.

In 1972, Ginsburg co-founded the Women's Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and, in 1973, she became the Project’s general counsel.[11] The Women's Rights Project and related ACLU projects participated in over 300 gender discrimination cases by 1974. As the director of the ACLU's Women's Rights Project, she argued six gender discrimination cases before the Supreme Court between 1973 and 1976, winning five.[21] Rather than asking the court to end all gender discrimination at once, Ginsburg charted a strategic course, taking aim at specific discriminatory statutes and building on each successive victory. She chose plaintiffs carefully, at times picking male plaintiffs to demonstrate that gender discrimination was harmful to both men and women.[29][21] The laws Ginsburg targeted included those that on the surface appeared beneficial to women, but in fact reinforced the notion that women needed to be dependent on men.[21] Her strategic advocacy extended to word choice, favoring the use of "gender" instead of "sex", after her secretary suggested the word "sex" would serve as a distraction to judges.[29] She attained a reputation as a skilled oral advocate and her work led directly to the end of gender discrimination in many areas of the law.[32]

Ginsburg volunteered to write the brief for Reed v. Reed, 404 U.S. 71 (1971), in which the Supreme Court extended the protections of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to women.[29][33][b] She argued and won Frontiero v. Richardson, 411 U.S. 677 (1973), which challenged a statute making it more difficult for a female service member to claim an increased housing allowance for her husband than for a male service member seeking the same allowance for his wife. Ginsburg argued that the statute treated women as inferior, and the Supreme Court ruled 8–1 in her favor.[21] The court again ruled in Ginsburg's favor in Weinberger v. Wiesenfeld, 420 U.S. 636 (1975), where Ginsburg represented a widower denied survivor benefits under Social Security, which permitted widows but not widowers to collect special benefits while caring for minor children. She argued that the statute discriminated against male survivors of workers by denying them the same protection as their female counterparts.[35]

Ginsburg filed an amicus brief and sat with counsel at oral argument for Craig v. Boren, 429 U.S. 190 (1976), which challenged an Oklahoma statute that set different minimum drinking ages for men and women.[21][35] For the first time, the court imposed what is known as intermediate scrutiny on laws discriminating based on gender, a heightened standard of Constitutional review.[21][35][36] Her last case as a lawyer before the Supreme Court was 1978's Duren v. Missouri, 439 U.S. 357 (1979), which challenged the validity of voluntary jury duty for women, on the ground that participation in jury duty was a citizen's vital governmental service and therefore should not be optional for women. At the end of Ginsburg's oral argument, then-Associate Justice William Rehnquist asked Ginsburg, "You won't settle for putting Susan B. Anthony on the new dollar, then?"[37] Ginsburg said she considered responding, "We won't settle for tokens", but instead opted not to answer the question.[37]

Legal scholars and advocates credit Ginsburg's body of work with making significant legal advances for women under the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution.[29][21] Taken together, Ginsburg's legal victories discouraged legislatures from treating women and men differently under the law.[29][21][35] She continued to work on the ACLU's Women's Rights Project until her appointment to the Federal Bench in 1980.[29] Later, colleague Antonin Scalia praised Ginsburg's skills as an advocate, "she became the leading (and very successful) litigator on behalf of women's rights—the Thurgood Marshall of that cause, so to speak". This was a comparison that had first been made by former Solicitor General Erwin Griswold who was also her former professor and dean at Harvard Law School, in a speech given in 1985.[38][39][c]

U.S. Court of Appeals

Ginsburg was nominated by President Jimmy Carter on April 14, 1980, to a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacated by Judge Harold Leventhal after his death.[28] She was confirmed by the United States Senate on June 18, 1980, and received her commission later that day.[28] Her service terminated on August 9, 1993, due to her elevation to the United States Supreme Court.[28][40][41] During her time as a judge on the DC Circuit, Ginsburg often found consensus with her colleagues including conservatives Robert H. Bork and Antonin Scalia.[42][43] Her time on the court earned her a reputation as a "cautious jurist" and a moderate.[44] David S. Tatel replaced her after Ginsburg's appointment to the Supreme Court.[45]

Supreme Court

Nomination and confirmation

Ginsburg officially accepts the nomination from President Bill Clinton on June 14, 1993.
Ginsburg officially accepts the nomination from President Bill Clinton on June 14, 1993.

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[17] after a suggestion by Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch.[46] At the time of her nomination, Ginsburg was viewed as a moderate. Clinton was reportedly looking to increase the court's diversity, which Ginsburg did as the first Jewish justice since the 1969 resignation of Justice Abe Fortas, the first-ever female Jewish justice, and the second female justice.[44][47][48] She eventually became the longest-serving Jewish justice ever.[49] The American Bar Association's Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary rated Ginsburg as "well qualified", its highest possible rating for a prospective justice.[50]

During her subsequent testimony before the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary as part of the confirmation hearings, she refused to answer questions about her view on the constitutionality of some issues such as the death penalty as it was an issue that she might have to vote on if it came before the court.[51]

Chief Justice William Rehnquist swears-in Ginsburg as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court as her husband Martin Ginsburg and President Clinton watch.
Chief Justice William Rehnquist swears-in Ginsburg as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court as her husband Martin Ginsburg and President Clinton watch.

At the same time, Ginsburg did answer questions about some potentially controversial issues. For instance, she affirmed her belief in a constitutional right to privacy and explained at some length her personal judicial philosophy and thoughts regarding gender equality.[52]:15–16 Ginsburg was more forthright in discussing her views on topics about which she had previously written.[51] The United States Senate confirmed her by a 96 to 3 vote on August 3, 1993,[d][28] she received her commission on August 5, 1993,[28] and she took her judicial oath on August 10, 1993.[54]

Ginsburg's name was later invoked during the confirmation process of John Roberts. Ginsburg herself was not the first nominee to avoid answering certain specific questions before Congress,[e] and as a young lawyer in 1981 Roberts had advised against Supreme Court nominees' giving specific responses.[55] Nevertheless, some conservative commentators and Senators invoked the phrase "Ginsburg precedent" to defend his demurrers.[50][55] 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".[56]

Supreme Court jurisprudence

Ginsburg characterizes her performance on the court as a cautious approach to adjudication.[57] 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."[58] Legal scholar Cass Sunstein has characterized Ginsburg as a "rational minimalist", a jurist who seeks to build cautiously on precedent rather than pushing the Constitution towards her own vision.[59]:10–11

From left to right: Sandra Day O'Connor; Sonia Sotomayor; Ginsburg; and Elena Kagan. (October 1, 2010).
From left to right: Sandra Day O'Connor; Sonia Sotomayor; Ginsburg; and Elena Kagan. (October 1, 2010).

The retirement of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor in 2006 left Ginsburg as the only woman on the court.[60][f] Linda Greenhouse of The New York Times referred to the subsequent 2006–2007 term of the court as "the time when Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg found her voice, and used it".[62] The term also marked the first time in Ginsburg's history with the court where she read multiple dissents from the bench, a tactic employed to signal more intense disagreement with the majority.[62]

With the retirement of Justice John Paul Stevens, Ginsburg became the senior member of what is sometimes referred to as the court's "liberal wing".[29][63][64] When the court splits 5–4 along ideological lines and the liberal justices are in the minority, Ginsburg often has the authority to assign authorship of the dissenting opinion because of her seniority.[63][g] Ginsburg has been a proponent of the liberal dissenters speaking "with one voice" and, where practicable, presenting a unified approach to which all of the dissenting justices can agree.[29][63]


Ginsburg discussed her views on abortion and sexual equality in a 2009 New York Times interview, in which she said about abortion that "[t]he basic thing is that the government has no business making that choice for a woman".[66] 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 40th anniversary of the court's ruling in Roe v. Wade 410 U.S. 113 (1973), she criticized the decision in Roe as terminating a nascent democratic movement to liberalize abortion laws which might have built a more durable consensus in support of abortion rights.[67] Ginsburg was in the minority for Gonzales v. Carhart, 550 U.S. 124 (2007), a 5–4 decision upholding restrictions on partial birth abortion. In her dissent, Ginsburg opposed the majority's decision to defer to legislative findings that the procedure was not safe for women. Ginsburg focused her ire on the way Congress reached its findings and with the veracity of the findings.[68] Joining the majority for Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, 579 U.S. 15-274 (2016), a case which struck down parts of a 2013 Texas law regulating abortion providers, Ginsburg also authored a short concurring opinion which was even more critical of the legislation at issue.[69] She asserted the legislation was not aimed at protecting women's health, as Texas had claimed, but rather to impede women's access to abortions.[68][69]

Gender discrimination

Ginsburg authored the court's opinion in United States v. Virginia, 518 U.S. 515 (1996), which struck down the Virginia Military Institute's (VMI) male-only admissions policy as violating the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. VMI is a prestigious, state-run, military-inspired institution that did not admit women. For Ginsburg, a state actor such as VMI could not use gender to deny women the opportunity to attend VMI with its unique educational methods.[70] Ginsburg emphasized that the government must show an "exceedingly persuasive justification" to use a classification based on sex.[71]

Commissioned portrait of Ginsburg in 2000
Commissioned portrait of Ginsburg in 2000

Ginsburg dissented in the court's decision on Ledbetter v. Goodyear, 550 U.S. 618 (2007), a case where plaintiff Lilly Ledbetter filed a lawsuit against her employer claiming pay discrimination based on her gender under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In a 5–4 decision, the majority interpreted the statute of limitations as starting to run at the time of every pay period, even if a woman did not know she was being paid less than her male colleague until later. Ginsburg found the result absurd, pointing out that women often do not know they are being paid less, and therefore it was unfair to expect them to act at the time of each paycheck. She also called attention to the reluctance women may have in male-dominated fields to making waves by filing lawsuits over small amounts, choosing instead to wait until the disparity accumulates.[72] As part of her dissent, Ginsburg called on Congress to amend Title VII to undo the court's decision with legislation.[73] Following the election of President Barack Obama in 2008, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, making it easier for employees to win pay discrimination claims, became law.[74][75] Ginsburg was credited with helping to inspire the law.[73][75]

Search and seizure

Although Ginsburg did not author the majority opinion, she was credited with influencing her colleagues on the case Safford Unified School District v. Redding, 557 U.S. 364 (2009).[76] The court ruled that a school went too far in ordering a 13-year-old female student to strip to her bra and underpants so that female officials could search for drugs.[76] In an interview published prior to the court's decision, Ginsburg shared her view that some of her colleagues did not fully appreciate the effect of a strip search on a 13-year-old girl. As she pointed out, "They have never been a 13-year-old girl."[77] In an 8–1 decision, the court agreed that the school's search went too far and violated the Fourth Amendment and allowed the student's lawsuit against the school to go forward. Only Ginsburg and Stevens would have allowed the student to sue individual school officials as well.[76]

In Herring v. United States, 555 U.S. 135 (2009), Ginsburg dissented from the court's decision not to suppress evidence due to a police officer's failure to update a computer system. In contrast to Roberts' emphasis on suppression as a means to deter police misconduct, Ginsburg took a more robust view on the use of suppression as a remedy for a violation of a defendant's Fourth Amendment rights. Ginsburg viewed suppression as a way to prevent the government from profiting from mistakes, and therefore as a remedy to preserve judicial integrity and respect civil rights.[78]:308 She also rejected Roberts' assertion that suppression would not deter mistakes, contending making police pay a high price for mistakes would encourage them to take greater care.[78]:309

International law

Ginsburg has also advocated the use of foreign law and norms to shape U.S. law in judicial opinions; this was a view that was not shared by some of her conservative colleagues. Ginsburg supports using foreign interpretations of law for persuasive value and possible wisdom, not as precedent which the court is bound to follow.[79] Ginsburg has expressed the view that consulting international law is a well-ingrained tradition in American law, counting John Henry Wigmore and President John Adams as internationalists.[80] Ginsburg's own reliance on international law dates back to her time as an attorney; in her first argument before the court, Reed v. Reed, 404 U.S. 71 (1971), she cited two German cases.[81] In her concurring opinion in Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003), a decision upholding Michigan Law School's affirmative action admissions policy, Ginsburg noted there was accord between the notion that affirmative action admissions policies would have an end point and agrees with international treaties designed to combat racial and gender based discrimination.[80]

Notable cases

Other activities

Portrait of Ginsburg, c. 2006
Portrait of Ginsburg, c. 2006

At his request, Ginsburg administered Vice President Al Gore's oath of office to a second term during the second inauguration of Bill Clinton on January 20, 1997.[82] She was the third woman to administer an inaugural oath of office.[83] Ginsburg is believed to be the first Supreme Court justice to officiate at a same-sex wedding, performing the August 31, 2013, ceremony of Kennedy Center President Michael Kaiser and John Roberts, a government economist.[84] Earlier that summer, the court had bolstered same-sex marriage rights in two separate cases.[85][86] Ginsburg believed the issue being settled led same-sex couples to ask her to officiate as there was no longer the fear of compromising rulings on the issue.[85]

The Supreme Court bar formerly inscribed its certificates "in the year of our Lord", which some Orthodox Jews opposed, and asked Ginsburg to object to. She did so, and due to her objection, Supreme Court bar members have since been given other choices of how to inscribe the year on their certificates.[87]

Despite their ideological differences, Ginsburg considered Scalia her closest colleague on the court. The two justices often dined and attended the opera together.[88] In her spare time, Ginsburg has appeared in several operas in non-speaking supernumerary roles such as Die Fledermaus (2003) and Ariadne auf Naxos (1994 with Scalia, and 2009), and spoke lines penned by herself in The Daughter of the Regiment (2016).[89]

In January 2012, Ginsburg went to Egypt for four days of discussions with judges, law school faculty, law school students, and legal experts.[90][91] In an interview with Al Hayat TV, she stated that the first requirement of a new constitution should be that it would "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", she cited the United States Constitution and Constitution of South Africa as documents she might look to if drafting a new 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 directly in the process, and slavery still existed in the U.S.[92]

During three separate interviews that were conducted in July 2016, Ginsburg criticized presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, telling The New York Times and the Associated Press that she did not want to think about the possibility of a Trump presidency. She joked that she might consider moving to New Zealand.[93][94] She later apologized for commenting on the presumptive Republican nominee, calling her remarks "ill advised".[95]

Ginsburg speaks at a naturalization ceremony at the National Archives in 2018
Ginsburg speaks at a naturalization ceremony at the National Archives in 2018

Ginsburg's first book, My Own Words published by Simon & Schuster, was released October 4, 2016.[96] The book debuted on the New York Times Best Seller List for hardcover nonfiction at No. 12.[97] While promoting her book in October 2016 during an interview with Katie Couric, Ginsburg responded to a question about Colin Kaepernick choosing not to stand for the national anthem at sporting events calling the protest "really dumb". She later apologized for her criticism calling her earlier comments "inappropriately dismissive and harsh" and noting she had not been familiar with the incident and should have declined to respond to the question.[98][99][100]

In 2018, Ginsburg expressed her support for the #MeToo movement, which encourages women to speak up about their experiences with sexual harassment.[101] She told an audience, "It's about time. For so long women were silent, thinking there was nothing you could do about it, but now the law is on the side of women, or men, who encounter harassment and that's a good thing."[101] She also reflected on her own experiences with gender discrimination and sexual harassment, including a time when a chemistry professor at Cornell unsuccessfully attempted to trade her exam answers for sex.[101]

Personal life

A few days after Bader graduated from Cornell, she married Martin D. Ginsburg, who later became an internationally prominent tax lawyer. Upon her accession to the D.C. Circuit, the couple moved from New York to Washington, D.C., where her husband became professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center. Their daughter, Jane C. Ginsburg (b. 1955), is a professor at Columbia Law School. Their son, James Steven Ginsburg (b. 1965), is the founder and president of Cedille Records, a classical music recording company based in Chicago, Illinois. Ginsburg is a grandmother of four.[102]

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 dictated papers 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.[103] They spoke publicly of being in a shared earning/shared parenting marriage including in a speech Martin Ginsburg wrote and had intended to give before his death that Ruth Bader Ginsburg delivered posthumously.[104]

Although Bader was raised in a Jewish home, she became non-observant when she was excluded from the minyan for mourners after the death of her mother. There was a "house full of women", but Bader, as a woman, was excluded. Orthodox Judaism requires that 10 Jewish men (over the age of 13) be present for a minyan, and women are excluded from being counted. She notes that her attitude might be different, following her attendance at a bat mitzvah ceremony in a more liberal stream of Judaism where the rabbi and cantor were both women.[105] In March 2015, Ginsburg and Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt released "The Heroic and Visionary Women of Passover", an essay 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."[106] In addition, she decorates her chambers with an artist's rendering of the Hebrew phrase from Deuteronomy, "Zedek, zedek, tirdof", ("Justice, justice shall you pursue") as a reminder of her heritage and professional responsibility.[107]

Following her appointment to the Supreme Court in 1993, Ginsburg deviated from court tradition by wearing a French robe d'avocat, as opposed to the traditional American judicial robe. The French robe differs from the American with its exposed buttons, open sleeves, standing collar, and white rabat. On the left shoulder of the robe are two buttons intended for the fastening of an epitoge, traditionally worn by French lawyers. In later years, Ginsburg would shift from the traditionally uniform white French rabat and begin wearing more varied and fanciful jabots, necklaces, and other forms of neckwear. Some time later, fellow female Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O'Connor would follow Ginsburg's lead and begin wearing the French robe d'avocat as well.

Ginsburg has a collection of lace jabots from around the world.[108][109] 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.[108][109] Her favorite jabot (woven with white beads) is from Cape Town, South Africa.[108]


In 1999, Ginsburg was diagnosed with colon cancer; she underwent surgery that was followed by chemotherapy and radiation therapy. During the process, she did not miss a day on the bench.[110] Ginsburg was physically weakened by the cancer treatment, and she began working with a personal trainer. Since 1999, Bryant Johnson, a former Army reservist attached to the Special Forces, has trained Ginsburg twice weekly in the justices-only gym at the Supreme Court.[111][112] In spite of her small stature, Ginsburg saw her physical fitness improve since her first bout with cancer; she was able to complete 20 push-ups in a session before her 80th birthday.[111][113]

On February 5, 2009, she again underwent surgery, this time for pancreatic cancer.[114][115] Ginsburg had a tumor that was discovered at an early stage.[114] She was released from a New York City hospital on February 13 and returned to the bench when the Supreme Court went back into session on February 23, 2009.[116][117][118] On September 24, 2009, Ginsburg was hospitalized in Washington DC for lightheadedness following an outpatient treatment for iron deficiency and was released the following day.[119]

On November 26, 2014, she had a stent placed in her right coronary artery after experiencing discomfort while exercising in the Supreme Court gym with her personal trainer.[120][121]

On November 8, 2018, she was hospitalized after fracturing three ribs in a fall in her office at the Supreme Court.[122] A day later it was reported that Ginsburg had returned to official judicial work after a day of observation.[123][124] An outpouring of public support followed.[125][126] A CT scan of her ribs following her November 8 fall showed cancerous nodules in her lungs.[127] On December 21, Ginsburg underwent a left-lung lobectomy at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to remove the nodules.[127] On January 7, 2019, for the first time since joining the Court more than 25 years earlier, Ginsburg missed oral argument while she recuperated.[128] She returned to the Supreme Court on February 15, 2019 to participate in a private conference with other justices in her first appearance at the court since her cancer surgery in December 2018.[129]

Future plans

When John Paul Stevens retired in 2010, Ginsburg became the oldest justice on the court at age 77.[130] Despite rumors that she would retire because of advancing age, poor health, and the death of her husband,[131][132] she denied she was planning to step down. In an August 2010 interview, Ginsburg stated that her work on the court was helping her cope with the death of her husband. She also suggested that she would serve at least until a painting that used to hang in her office was returned to her in 2012.[130] She also expressed a wish to emulate Justice Louis Brandeis' service of nearly 23 years, which she achieved in April 2016.[130][133] She stated she has a new "model" to emulate in former colleague Justice John Paul Stevens, who retired at age 90 after nearly 35 years on the bench.[133]

During the presidency of Barack Obama, some progressive lawyers and activists called for Ginsburg to retire so that Obama would be able to appoint a like-minded successor,[134][135][136] particularly while the Democratic Party held control of the U.S. Senate.[137] They pointed to Ginsburg's age and past health issues as factors making her longevity uncertain.[135] Ginsburg rejected these pleas.[63] She affirmed her wish to remain a justice as long as she was mentally sharp enough to perform her duties.[63] Moreover, Ginsburg opined that the political climate would prevent Obama from appointing a jurist like herself.[138]


In 2002, Ginsburg was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.[139] Ginsburg has been named one of 100 Most Powerful Women (2009),[140] one of Glamour magazine's Women of the Year 2012,[141] and one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people (2015).[142] She has been awarded honorary Doctor of Laws degrees by Willamette University (2009),[143] Princeton University (2010),[144] and Harvard University (2011).[145]

In 2013, a painting featuring the four female justices to have served as justices on the Supreme Court (Ginsburg, Sandra Day O'Connor, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan) was unveiled at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.[146][147] According to the Smithsonian at the time, the painting was on loan to the museum for three years.[146]

Researchers at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History gave a species of praying mantis the name Ilomantis ginsburgae after Ginsburg. The name was given because the neck plate of the Ilomantis ginsburgae bears a resemblance to a jabot, which Ginsburg is known for wearing. Moreover, the new species was identified based upon the female insect's genitalia instead of based upon the male of the species. The researchers noted that the name was a nod to Ginsburg's fight for gender equality.[148][149]

In popular culture

A poster depicting Ginsburg as "the Notorious R.B.G." in the likeness of American rapper The Notorious B.I.G., 2018.
A poster depicting Ginsburg as "the Notorious R.B.G." in the likeness of American rapper The Notorious B.I.G., 2018.

Ginsburg has been referred to as a "pop culture icon".[150][151][152] Ginsburg's profile began to rise after O'Connor's retirement in 2006 left Ginsburg as the only serving female justice. Her increasingly fiery dissents particularly in Shelby County v. Holder 570 U.S. 2 (2013) led to the creation of the Notorious R.B.G. Tumblr and Internet meme comparing the justice to rapper The Notorious B.I.G.[153] The creator of the Notorious R.B.G. Tumblr, then-law student Shana Knizhnik, teamed up with MSNBC reporter Irin Carmon to turn the blog into a book titled Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.[154] Released in October 2015, the book became a New York Times bestseller.[155] In 2015, Ginsburg and Scalia, known for their shared love of opera, were fictionalized in Scalia/Ginsburg, an opera by Derrick Wang.[156]

Additionally, Ginsburg's pop culture appeal has inspired nail art, Halloween costumes, a bobblehead doll, tattoos, t-shirts, coffee mugs, and a children's coloring book among other things.[154][157][158][159] She appears in both a comic opera and a workout book.[159] Musician Jonathan Mann also made a song using part of her Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. dissent.[160] Ginsburg has admitted to having a "large supply" of Notorious R.B.G. t-shirts, which she distributes as gifts.[161]

Since 2015, Ginsburg has been portrayed by Kate McKinnon on Saturday Night Live.[162] McKinnon has repeatedly reprised the role, including during a Weekend Update sketch that aired from the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland.[163][164] The segments typically feature McKinnon-as-Ginsburg lobbing insults she calls "Ginsburns" and doing a celebratory dance.[165][166] Filmmakers Betsy West and Julie Cohen created a documentary about Ginsburg, titled RBG, for CNN Films, which premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.[167][23] In the film Deadpool 2 (2018), a photo of her is shown as Deadpool considers her for his X-Force, a team of superheroes.[168] Another film, On the Basis of Sex, focusing on Ginsburg's career struggles fighting for equal rights, was released later in 2018; its screenplay was named to the Black List of best unproduced screenplays of 2014.[169] English actress Felicity Jones portrays Ginsburg in the film, with Armie Hammer as her husband Marty.[170] Ginsburg herself has a cameo in the film.[171] The seventh season of the sitcom New Girl features a three-year-old character named Ruth Bader Schmidt, named after Ginsburg.[172] A Lego mini-figurine of Ginsburg is shown within a brief segment of The Lego Movie 2. Ginsburg gave her blessing for the cameo, as well as to have the mini-figurine produced as part of the Lego toy sets following the film's release in February 2019.[173]

See also


  1. ^ According to Ginsburg, Justice William O. Douglas hired the first female Supreme Court clerk in 1944, and the second female law clerk was not hired until 1966.[18]
  2. ^ Ginsburg listed Dorothy Kenyon and Pauli Murray as co-authors on the brief in recognition of their contributions to feminist legal argument.[34]
  3. ^ Janet Benshoof, the president of the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy, made a similar comparison between Ginsburg and Marshall in 1993.[21]
  4. ^ The three negative votes came from Don Nickles (R-Oklahoma), Bob Smith (R-New Hampshire) and Jesse Helms (R-North Carolina), while Donald W. Riegle Jr. (D-Michigan) did not vote.[53]
  5. ^ Felix Frankfurter was the first nominee to answer questions before Congress in 1939.[55] The issue of how much nominees are expected to answer arose during hearings for O'Connor and Scalia.[55]
  6. ^ Ginsburg remained the only female justice on the court until Sotomayor was sworn in on August 7, 2009.[61]
  7. ^ The 2018 case of Sessions v. Dimaya marked the first time Ginsurg was able to assign a majority opinion, when Justice Neil Gorsuch voted with the liberal wing. Ginsburg assigned the opinion to Justice Elena Kagan.[65]


  1. ^ a b c d e Ginsburg, Ruth Bader; Harnett, Mary; Williams, Wendy W. (2016). My Own Words. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-1501145247.
  2. ^ Kelley, Lauren; Kelley, Lauren (October 27, 2015). "How Ruth Bader Ginsburg Became the 'Notorious RBG'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved January 24, 2019.
  3. ^ "Ruth Bader Ginsburg – Academy of Achievement". Retrieved May 31, 2018.
  4. ^ Stated in RBG, 2018
  5. ^ "Book Discussion on Sisters in Law" Presenter: Linda Hirshman, author. Politics and Prose Bookstore. BookTV, Washington. September 3, 2015. 27 minutes in; retrieved September 12, 2015 C-Span website Archived March 5, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Burton, Danielle (October 1, 2007). "10 Things You Didn't Know About Ruth Bader Ginsburg". US News & World Report. Retrieved February 18, 2014.
  7. ^ a b c d e Margolick, David (June 25, 1993). "Trial by Adversity Shapes Jurist's Outlook". The New York Times. Retrieved February 21, 2016.
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Further reading

External links

Legal offices
Preceded by
Harold Leventhal
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
Succeeded by
David Tatel
Preceded by
Byron White
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Clarence Thomas
as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court
Order of precedence of the United States
as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court
Succeeded by
Stephen Breyer
as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court
This page was last edited on 17 March 2019, at 03:40
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