Remembering The Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Remembering The Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsburg

By: Laura E. Ferret, Esq.

September 19, 2020

On Friday, September 18, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away from complications surrounding metastatic pancreatic cancer. Nominated to the Supreme Court by the Clinton administration in 1993, Ginsburg was known as a first-class litigator turned percipient jurist. Ginsburg was notably only the second woman to ever be nominated to the Supreme Court, with the first being Reagan appointee Sandra Day O’Connor. Like O’Connor, Ginsburg was a pioneer who blazed a trail for generations of female attorneys that would follow in her footsteps.

The office of Supreme Court Justice is one of the highest offices that any attorney could hope to achieve. Cases go to the Supreme Court only after they have been decided at the trial court level and on appeal. From there, the Supreme Court’s choice to either affirm the lower courts’ decision or to overturn it sets the legal precedent for years to come. The office of the Supreme Court exists to guide the American people in interpreting the rules of law drafted by the legislature. Justices of the Supreme Court take turns drafting the decisions that reflect the Supreme Court’s majority vote, which act as binding law unless the decisions are later overturned by the legislature or subsequent Court opinion.

The first opinion that Ruth Bader Ginsburg penned as a Supreme Court Justice came in 1996 when she drafted the majority opinion in United States v. Virginia. In United States v. Virginia, the Supreme Court voted 7-1 that the Virginia Military Institute’s policy to not allow women into their school was unconstitutional. Ginsburg’s decision stated: “Women seeking and fit for a VMI-quality education cannot be offered anything less under the state’s obligation to afford them genuinely equal protection.” The case set a higher legal standard of review for government policies that treat men and women differently on the basis of their sex.

Although Ginsburg wrote several majority opinions thereafter, she became well known later in career mostly for her powerful dissenting opinions. Justices may draft dissenting opinions when they disagree with the majority’s decision in order to lay out the analysis for their objection. Justice Ginsburg’s dissenting opinions were so strongly written that some began to call her ‘the notorious RBG’ later in her life.

However, even those who disagreed with Justice Ginsburg’s opinions respected her for her consistency and discerning legal mind. Some may be surprised to learn that Ginsburg had a close friendship with the late conservative Supreme Court Justice Antony Scalia. Although the two Justices were very much ideologically opposed, they purportedly bonded over their shared love of the Opera. Ginsburg was once quoted in saying that Scalia was one of the few people who could always make her laugh. Similarly, Justice Scalia once said that if he were ever stranded on a desert island with a liberal, he’d want it to be Ruth Ginsburg. The two justices demonstrated an ability to find common ground and mutual respect even when politics differ.

In a similar vein, we pay tribute to the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her legacy. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family as they deal with this difficult time.

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