A Tribute to Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Originally, this piece was going to discuss the Supreme Court as a political warhead. Specifically, I wanted to focus on the importance of RBG, Federalist No.78, and constitutionality. My aim was to present the judicial branch as an underestimated fireball in terms of representation and “people’s power.” 

On September 18th, 2020, Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away. I deemed it unbelievably inappropriate to examine the Supreme Court when a quintessential jurist has left us. Therefore, this is a tribute of sorts.

To preface, I have an exorbitant amount of gratitude for Ms. Ginsburg.

Thank you for leading the way for young women in law/politics. Thank you for being my muse. I am here because of you. Normally, I don’t put political figures on a pedestal because of the potential implications. However, this is different. It just is. Simply, I can’t blind myself to Ms. Ginsburg’s accomplishments and what she has done for this country. Her loss is a tragedy for the United States. I don’t recognize that as debatable.

Regarding the consequences of Ms. Ginsburg’s death, we can hash that over some other time. We can talk about the possibility of a 6-3 Republican Supreme Court majority, Roe v. Wade being overturned, and overall long-term consequences another time. Ms. Ginsburg was the epitome of patriotism, equality, and feminism. A complete and utter powerhouse for everything right. Let us recognize that.

She began her reign in the Supreme Court in 1993 as the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court and as the first Jewish woman. An astonishing feat.

Ms. Ginsburg was born Joan Ruth Bader but went by the name “Ruth” beginning in kindergarten. In the spirit of this, I will now be addressing her as Ruth.

Moving back some years, as a young woman, Ruth showcased her intelligence as she brought home phenomenal grades and was heavily involved in extracurriculars/community-orientated work.  would most certainly want to be friends with her. Who wouldn’t? 

In addition, she was raised in Judaism, practicing many Jewish traditions and values. Nevertheless, her life was struck with grief and tragedy from an early age. Ruth’s elder sister, Marilyn, died at 6 due to meningitis. At the time, she was a little over a year old. Fast-forward to high school, Ruth was unable to attend her graduation ceremony. Her mother passed away.

Ruth attended Cornell University on a full scholarship. There, she embarked on an intellectual journey, influenced by author Vladimir Nabokov and constitutional lawyer Robert Cushman. Ruth graduated from university in 1954. She received high honors in Government and distinction in all subjects. Further, Ruth was a College of Arts and Sciences Class Marshal. While at Cornell, Ruth fell in love with Martin Ginsburg who she married in that same year and eventually had two kids with.

Soon thereafter, Ruth began attending Harvard Law School where she was the victim of harsh, relentless, disgusting gender discrimination.

Ruth was one of only nine women in a class of 500 students. Her peers and professors often interrogated her about her spot at Harvard at the expense of a man. All nine women were treated as “comic relief” and they were not allowed to use several facets of the library. Ruth was the first woman to serve on the editorial staff of the Harvard Law Review all while tending to her husband, struck with testicular cancer. In her final year of law school, Ruth transferred to Columbia law school where she served on the law review. In 1959, she was tied in first place in her graduating class.

“In the fifties, the traditional law firms were just beginning to turn around on hiring Jews. … But to be a woman, a Jew, and a mother to boot, that combination was a bit much.”

Even with such a high-caliber background, it was unbelievably challenging for Ruth to obtain a job. At the time, only two women had ever served as federal judges. Through the help of a Columbia Law professor, Ruth was offered a clerkship for Judge Edmund Palmieri of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. She served in this position until 1961. Subsequently, Ruth worked at Columbia Law as a research associate for a project on International Procedure. Later, she worked as the associate director for a year. In 1965, she published a book titled Civil Procedure in Sweden.

Ruth taught classes at Rutgers University School of Law from 1963 until 1972. The dean asked her to accept a low-salary due to her husband’s job. After the birth of her second son, Ruth would wear baggy clothing because she feared that her contract would not be renewed. She gained tenure in 1969.

1970 marked the year in which Ruth became a professional advocate for gender equality as she moderated a panel on “women’s liberation.” The next year she published two law reviews alongside teaching a seminar on the issue. Ruth began working with the ACLU in two federal cases. One having dealt with a federal tax code denying single fathers a deduction as sole familial providers. The next revolving around a gender bias against women in intestate succession. Ruth was a crucial figure in the founding of the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project in 1972. In fact, she became the first tenured female professor at Columbia Law School. Simultaneously, Ruth operated on the ACLU’s general counsel and the National Board of Directors for much of the decade. Moreover, she successfully argued before the Supreme Court five out of six times. 

In 1980 Jimmy Carter appointed Ruth to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in Washington, D.C.

Ruth developed professional relationships with Robert Bork and Antonin Scalia, renowned conservative judges. She became well-known as a sensible liberal who paid close attention to detail. Involving Roe v. Wade (1973), Ruth criticized the decision as being too vague. She declared that the Supreme Court should have delivered a limiting decision providing states with more power concerning specifics.   

On June 14th, 1993, Bill Clinton announced his nomination of Ruth to the Supreme Court to replace Byron White. She was backed unanimously by the Senate Judiciary Committee and confirmed on August 3rd by the Senate with a 96-3 vote.

Ruth became renowned for her engagement in oral arguments alongside her apparel. She was seen dressed in emblematic collars and judicial robes. An example of the former includes differing majority-opinion and dissenting collars. Ruth wrote the majority’s opinion in United States v. Virginia (1996) where she declared that the men-only policy of Virginia Military Institute violated the equal protection clause. She engaged in profound friendships with many of her conservative colleagues such as Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and Justice Antonin Scalia.

In Gonzales v. Carhart (2007), Ruth wrote and publicly read her strong dissenting opinion revolving around the continuation of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. She stated that it “cannot be understood as anything other than an effort to chip away at a right (abortion) declared again and again by this Court.” Of Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire (2007), Ruth argued that the majority’s position that a woman could not file a federal civil suit against her employer for a gender pay gap was not in accordance with congressional opinion. As a result, Ruth collaborated with Obama on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (2009). Another illustration of her powerful dissents is Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. (2014), which allowed corporations to refuse the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employers pay for coverage of various forms of contraceptives in their employees’ health insurance plans on a religious basis. She emphasized her worry that the Supreme Court had opened pandora’s box, stating “that commercial enterprises…can opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.”

Ruth culminated her dissents with “I dissent” as a substitute for the usual “I respectfully dissent.” In my eyes, this solidified her status as an icon.

Ruth was twice a cancer survivor. Thus, during the Obama administration, many liberals alluded to her illness and age in support of retirement. However, Ruth committed to remaining on the court for as long as she possibly could.

The day following her husband Martin Ginsburg’s death in 2010, Ruth attended work as usual since, she said, it was what he would have wanted.

As of now, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is no longer with us.

“Right now, you need to focus on this election. This is about the preservation of our democracy.”

I sat in on AOC’s live stream a couple of hours ago. Above are some of her wise words that calmed me during such a tumultuous time. If you are angry, if you are in disbelief, if you don’t know what to do… MOBILIZE! Your voice has power. Fear is fuel.

This is a very much condensed version of Ruth’s history. I could never do justice to her story. I am in absolute awe of her beauty, inside and out. A magnificent soul. Oh, to talk to her…to meet her! Wow.

While fighting metastatic pancreas cancer, Ruth had the balance of our nation on her shoulders. Now, we are fighting for her. She did her part, let us do ours.

Rest in love Ruth Bader Ginsburg. We will cherish your memory forever.

Sources:

 https://www.britannica.com/biography/Ruth-Bader-Ginsburg

https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/ruth-bader-ginsburg#_ftn1

https://www.supremecourthistory.org/history-of-the-court/the-current-court/justice-ruth-bader-ginsburg/