Ruth Bader Ginsburg Turns 84 (WAW)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court of the United States, Notorious RBG

I have already done a couple of posts to recognize it Women’s History Month but I didn’t think I could make a post for Write Anything Wednesday. There are so many things weighing on my mind lately and it has been hard for me to express my frustration at current events and the sheer amount of ignorance that surrounds debate. However, I realized that today is Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s 84th birthday today so I wanted to take the time to recognize it.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is my kind of person. Although she gave her opinion of the 2016 election (a comment she later apologized for), I generally admire her opinions and agree with her views. She may be what people call an incrementalist, but at her heart she is an egalitarian who respects president and the rule of law.


Who Is Ruth Bader Ginsburg?

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is an Associate Justice.

She was born on March 15, 1933 in Brooklyn, N.Y.

She married Martin D. Ginsburg in 1954. The two have a daughter named Jane and a son named James.

Ginsburg earned a B.A. from Cornell University in 1954. Irin Carmon said that Nabokov was one of Ginsburg’s instructors at Cornell. His influence can be seen in Ginsburg’s writings, even for court decisions.

Ginsburg went on to attend Harvard Law School. She received her LL.B. from Columbia Law School.

From 1959-1961, Ginsburg worked as a law clerk under Edmund L. Palmieri, who served as a U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York.

Starting in 1961, Ginsburg was a research associate at the Columbia Law School Project on International Procedure. She then became the director until she left in 1963.

Ginsburg was a Professor of Law at Rutgers University School of Law from 1963-1972.

From 1977-1978, Ginsburg was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences in Stanford, California.

Her Work with the American Civil Liberties Union

Ginsburg worked with the American Civil Liberties Union for close to a decade. She was an ACLU General Counsel from 1973-1980. For the last 6 years with the ACLU, she was on the organization’s National Board of Directors.

While she was at the ACLU, She “was instrumental in launching the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union.” Ginsburg directed the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project in the 1970’s. In that capacity, she took on cases that challenged governmental policies that discriminated based on sex and she sought to expand educational and occupational opportunities for women. She won 5/6 of the cases she brought to the Supreme Court.

As part of her work for the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project, Ginsburg also brought up cases where men were the plaintiffs. She did so because she is truly for equality between the sexes and in order to promote that, she had to help people see how laws bases on gender could negatively impact both men and women.

Her Career As a Judge

In 1980, Ginsburg was appointed to the D.C. Court of Appeals and stayed there until 1983. There, she gained a reputation as a moderate, but she attests that she adhered closely to the law while promoting social reform.

Ginsburg nominated to the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton in his first year in office. He chose her because she saw her as neither a liberal nor a conservative. Ginsburg was added to the Court on August 10, 1993. She was the second woman to be placed on the highest court in the land (“Biographies”).

(Sandra Day O’Connor was nominated by Ronald Reagan and she became the first female Supreme Court Justice. She resigned from the Supreme Court in 2006 in order to care for her husband, John. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.)


What Are Ginsburg’s Thoughts About Her Work?

Over the years, Ruth Bader Ginsburg has often given her thoughts on the makeup of the Supreme Court and past SCOTUS decisions, including some before her time on the Court. On cases she heard as a Supreme Court Justice, Ginsburg was also vocal during numerous cases where she felt her male colleagues lacked empathy. There was a case involving pregnant leave and she recounted the Lily Ledbetter case in 2007. At times like that, she really felt the absence of O’Connor.

Roe. v. Wade

Ginsburg didn’t like the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, but for reasons you might not think of. While she supports the result of that decision, she was concerned about women’s full reproductive rights, which included the right to continue a pregnancy to full term (outside of emergency cases). And she hated how servicewomen who had sex or were sidelined for any reason were punished while men generally weren’t. (FYI: Abortion wasn’t illegal on military bases, even before the Roe v. Wade decision.)

Safford Unified School District v. Redding

In a 2009 interview with Joan Biskupic, Ginsburg recounts Safford Unified School District v. Redding, a case in which a 13-year-old girl was stripped-searched by Arizona school officials who were looking for drugs.

The 2009 case strip-search grew from a 2003 incident involving Savana Redding, who attended Safford Middle School in Arizona. A classmate told a vice principal that Redding had unauthorized ibuprofen medication. The vice principal then directed a nurse and an administrative aid to strip-search Redding.

No drugs were found on Redding. And after she had been searched, she was forced to sit on a chair outside the principal’s office for over two hours. Within that time, the girl’s mother had not been called.

April Redding, Savana’s mother, sued the school district for its unreasonable search. The case was eventually taken to the Supreme Court.

Some of the Justices were rather callous in their statements regarding the girl and Ginsburg took exception to that. She was very gentle in her statements to USA Today:

They have never been a 13-year-old girl. It’s a very sensitive age for a girl. I didn’t thing that my colleagues, some of them, quite understood.

The Makeup of the Court

Ginsburg was unafraid to say that she felt the court needed another woman.

Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. I don’t say [the split] should be 50-50. It could be 60% men, 40% women, or the other way around. It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.

Justice David Souter retired early on during the Obama Administration and there was pressure coming from women’s groups, including the National Women’s Law Center, to nominate another woman for the Supreme Court. He did them one better and nominated two: Sonia Sotomayor (added to the Court on August 8, 2009) and Elana Kagan (added to the Court on August 7, 2010).

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court of the United States, Sandra Day O'Connor, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan
From left to right: O’Connor, Sotomayor, Ginsburg, and Kagan

Here’s more on the gender issue facing the Supreme Court:

In my lifetime, I expect to see three, four, perhaps even more women on the high court bench, women not shaped from the same mold, but of different complexions. Yes, we are miles in front. But what a distance we have traveled from the day President Thomas Jefferson told his secretary of State the appointment of women to public office is an innovation for which the public is not prepared. ‘Nor,’ Jefferson added, ‘am I.’

Also …

Ginsburg came up as a women’s advocate and recounted that she had difficulty getting a word in among her male peers.

I don’t know how many meetings I attended in the ’60s and the ’70s, where I would say something, and I thought it was a pretty good idea. Then somebody else would say exactly what I said. Then people would become alert to it, respond to it. It can happen even in the conferences in the court. When I will say something — and I don’t think I’m a confused speaker — and it isn’t until somebody else says it that everyone will focus on the point.

She also said she still had that problem on the Court:

It can happen even in the conferences in the court. When I will say something — and I don’t think I’m a confused speaker — and it isn’t until somebody else says it that everyone will focus on the point.

(At times, I feel just the same way regardless of the gender of the other people saying the same things I have already said.)


Did You Know?

Here are a few facts about Ginsburg most people don’t know.

She Is a Cancer Survivor.

In 1999, she fought colorectal cancer. In February 2009, she had surgery for pancreatic cancer.

Ginsburg Goes at Things Full Steam.

And she has said that she intends to stay on the Court as long as she can still do it.

Also:

Even past the age of 80, Ginsburg worked with a personal trainer to do squats, planks, and push-ups.

There Is a Book and Tumblr Blog Dedicated to Ginsburg.

Authors of the book Notorious RBG, Irin Carmon and Shana Khizhnik, started a Tumblr site and freely discuss the woman who inspires them. In their book, the women discussed Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s legal career and treat readers to a mix of facts and fan art.

The two run the Notorious RBG blog on Tumblr and I believe the book grew from that. The book was published by Dey Street Books.

Carmon and Khizhnik sat down in an interview with Rolling Stone’s Lauren Kelley in 2015. Khizhnik describes Ginsburg as a “radical” yet “practical.” Ginsburg has always had a knack for thinking outside the box when it comes to gender norms, while bringing her perspective as a woman and pushing for egalitarianism in marriage. She also knows how to work toward progress without alienating those who might disagree with her.

IC: She also believes that social change doesn’t come from the Court. With the same-sex marriage case, she would say that’s an example of first there being cultural and social change. I think she really thinks that social movements cause change, and the Court catches up. And she thinks her role in the Seventies was to help the Court catch up. So I think she’s an optimist in the sense that she thinks there will be progress outside the Court, and inside the Court she’s made it her practice to assume everyone’s good intentions. That is often challenging for people with strongly held views.

SK: One of the pieces of advice she gives her clerks is not to dismiss the opposing side’s arguments. She thinks it’s really important to put your adversaries’ arguments in the best light possible, and then knock them down.

Ginsburg was friends with the Late Associate Justice Antonin Scalia.

The two were ideologically opposites, but they went to the opera together and their families spent holidays together.

Ginsburg is in favor of affirmative action, albeit with some nuances.

On the whole, she wants people to advance based on merit, but believes there are Americans who might need help because of legal disadvantage.


Now, How Did Ginsburg Celebrate Her 84th Birthday?

For Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s 84th birthday, People’s Diana Pearl gathered a few Tweets and an Instagram post from well-wishers, including the one below.

At the end of the article, Pearl features a few quotes from Ginsburg over the years that reveals the Justice’s state of mind on social issues and equality.

For her birthday, Ginsburg enjoyed Prosecco and cupcakes with her chambers crew. The celebration continued with at production of The Sun Also Rises at Washington D.C.’s Lansburgh Theatre. She will celebrate her birthday with the other Supreme Court Justices on the Friday.


Works Cited

“Biographies of Current Justices of the Supreme Court.” Supreme Court of the United States. Last Updated 25 Jan 2017. Web. <https://www.supremecourt.gov/about/biographies.aspx>.

Biskupic, Joan. “Ginsburg: Court needs another woman [Archived Page].” USA Today. Updated 5 Oct 2009. Web. <http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:NYdS4pgZ_aAJ:usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/washington/judicial/2009-05-05-ruthginsburg_N.htm+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us>.

Diana Pearl. “‘Prosecco and Cupcakes with the Chambers Crew’: Inside the Notorious RBG’s 84th Birthday Celebration.” People. 15 Mar 2017. Web. <http://people.com/politics/happy-birthday-ruth-bader-ginsburg-see-how-fans-wished-the-notorious-rbg-a-happy-84th-and-read-her-best-quotes/>.

Kelley, Lauren. “How Ruth Bader Ginsburg Became the ‘Notorious RBG.’” Rolling Stone. 27 Oct 2015. Web. <http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/how-ruth-bader-ginsburg-became-the-notorious-rbg-20151027>.

Redden, Molly. “Here’s What You Need to Know About the Supreme Court’s Big Abortion Ruling.” Mother Jones. 26 June 2014. Web. <http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/06/supreme-court-decision-mccullen-v-coakley-abortion-clinic-buffer-zone>.

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