Thursday, October 22, 2009

Long Live Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

My favorite Justice on the Supreme Court is Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  The Supreme Court lists her bio:

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice, was born in Brooklyn, New York, March 15, 1933. She married Martin D. Ginsburg in 1954, and has a daughter, Jane, and a son, James. She received her B.A. from Cornell University, attended Harvard Law School, andreceived her LL.B. from Columbia Law School. She served as a law clerk to the Honorable Edmund L. Palmieri, Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, from 1959–1961. From 1961–1963, she was a research associate and then associate director of the Columbia Law School Project on International Procedure. She was a Professor of Law at Rutgers University School of Law from 1963–1972, and ColumbiaLaw School from 1972–1980, and a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behav-ioral Sciences in Stanford, California from 1977–1978. In 1971, she was instrumental inlaunching the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, and served asthe ACLU’s General Counsel from 1973–1980, and on the National Board of Directors from1974–1980. She was appointed a Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1980. President Clinton nominated her as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, and she took her seat August 10, 1993.
Over the years, her opinions and dissents give the impression of being intellectually superior, knowledgable of the law, and honest.  I agree with many of her decisions.  I respect the fact that she was the second woman to serve on the court after Sandra Day O'Connor.  O'Connor retired in 2005 leaving Ginsburg the lone woman on the court. 

A very interesting interview in the New York Times about the place of woman on the court asked, "What's it been like being the only woman on the court after Justice O'Connor retired?"  Ginsburg replied "It’s almost like being back in law school in 1956, when there were 9 of us in a class of over 500, so that meant most sections had just 2 women, and you felt that every eye was on you. Every time you went to answer a question, you were answering for your entire sex. It may not have been true, but certainly you felt that way. You were different and the object of curiosity." 
When asked if she felt that way this time around from her male colleagues? (on the court)  "My basic concern about being all alone was the public got the wrong perception of the court. It just doesn’t look right in the year 2009."

On June 12th of this year in a speech to the 2nd Circuit Judicial Conference Justice Ginsburg said "I was cheered by the President’s nomination of Second Circuit Judge Sonia Sotomayor as the next Associate Justice. The nominee will bring to the Supreme Court, as she did to the District Court and the Court of Appeals, a wealth of experience in the law and in life. I am glad no longer to be the lone woman on the Court, and look forward to a new colleague well equipped to handle the challenges our work presents."

The Daily Beast called Ginsburg "Feminism's Last Line of Defense."  They point to her work as co-director of the ACLU's Women's Rights Project. "Ginsburg was a central figure in a string of cases in which various kinds of sex discrimination were ruled unconstitutional. She was famously clever in choosing cases in which discriminatory laws hurt men—one of her cases involved a widower father who couldn’t collect social security benefits available to widowed mothers, another challenged an Oklahoma law that let women buy low-alcohol beer at age 18, while men had to be 21. Presented with victimized men, justices had a way of suddenly comprehending the perniciousness of sexism. Her work resulted in many of the protections later generations of women would take for granted."

So, she was important for women.  She has been important for men.  She has been important for the freedom's we hold and the civil liberties we cherish, as Americans.

Before leaving on a flight to London a short time ago, Justice Ginsburg collapsed because she was taking over the counter medicine mixed with prescription medicine.  I was concerned, very concerned.  She was taken to the hospital, never made the flight to London, but released the next day.  I was happy, very happy.  Justice Ginsburg said in the interview with the Times that she was looking forward to moving into the chambers that retiring Justice David Souter is vacating.  A good sign!

Here's hoping new Justice Sotomayor is everything we've hoped for, and that Justice Ginsburg serves for many years to come.


  1. What was your reaction to her remarks about her own perception that abortion was a means by which populations could be controlled, "particularly growth in populations that we don't want to have too many of"?

  2. When I read "particularly growth in populations that we don't want to have too many of" I thought she was referencing minority or lower income women. I didn't think she was saying that she favored that, or that that was her reason for favoring medicaide coverage for abortion. In fact, I'm not sure if she stated her agreement or disagreement on the medicaide issue.
    My reading was that was how she thought some lawmakers at the time would frame it.
    She goes on to say "Which some people felt would risk coercing women into having abortions when they didn’t really want them. But when the court decided McRae, the case came out the other way. And then I realized that my perception of it had been altogether wrong."
    I take the second line as she was happy, that they weren't thinking about coercing women into having abortions and that she was happy that her perception had been wrong.

  3. Sheila, I know that you are against abortion. (PERIOD) I would also guess that you might be against embryonic stemcell research on the basis of life begins at conception. Just a few thoughts about the issue(s). (Not trying to open up a can of worms here)
    I think you know that I consider myself liberal minded. I do, and think it's the right way to go. (Why wouldn't someone want to have a liberal, or open mind?) My thoughts about abortion are that it's a hard decision to have to make. I would like to see a world in which abortion does not have to substitute for birth control. Flat out, like Hillary Clinton I would like to see abortion rare, but legal. If you followed Justice Ginsburg's next quote she said that no-one should have the authority to tell a woman what she can do with her body. I agree with that also.
    As far as stemcell research goes, I do think they should be able to do research on embryonic stemcells which have no chance to develop into a human being and are routinely thrown in the garbage, to help mankind. I know you would disagree with this, but I don't think that God would disagree.
    The reason I bring all this up is that I think there needs to be a dialogue between the sides so that GOOD MEANING PEOPLE on both sides can understand each other better.

  4. When I read the context of Ruth Bader Ginsburg's I came to the same conclusion you did. I don't think she favors abortion for population control of "undesirables", either, but that is how it was framed by the pro-life movment. My problem with abortion is from a science point of view: by the time a woman misses her first period and has an inkling she might be pregnant, her developing offspring has an independent circulatory system with a beating heart, and measurable brain waves. As to the question of when life begins, I prefer to err on the side of humanity; in other words, no one can say for certain how many cells have to be present in order for that life to be considered human. On which day does it pass from not yet human to human? What makes abortion so difficult is that the fetus itself is hidden from view, and there is no one to speak on its behalf. It is a separate life who happens to reside within another living human being. So, pro choice advocates can elicit sympathy with photos of poor women, while we in the pro life movement only have photos of shredded bodies. When we point to those, we are labeled insensitive, crass, grotesque, etc. I don't have a problem with abortion when the life of a woman is at risk. In this nation taking a life in self defense has always been legal. I have big problems executing developing humans because they have a birth defect, or are the wrong gender, or have too many siblings already born, or because its family has no money, etc. And, in the case of the mother's life at risk, if you know anything at all about neonatalogy, you know that the overwhelming life threatening conditions occur later in the pregnancy when the fetus can be delievered early & given a chance to survive. As to stem cell research, if the research were limited to cells which would be discarded anyway, that might make sense, but we both know that there will be embryonic cells created for the purpose of research. And that, of course, leads to my earlier statement--how many cells does it take for a life to be considered human? Thanks for your comments to my question.