Ruth Bader Ginsburg re­calls ca­reer

Record Observer - - Community - By DOUG BISHOP dbishop@kibay­

QUEEN­STOWN — Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of nine jus­tices on the U.S. Supreme Court, spoke Wed­nes­day night, May 24, at the Wye Fel­lows speaker se­ries at the Aspen In­sti­tute in Queen­stown.

About 200 peo­ple at­tended the talk, which was for in­vited guests only, and en­joyed lis­ten­ing to Ginsburg speak about her dis­tin­guished ca­reer in law and an­swer ques­tions. Ginsburg’s lat­est book, “My Own Words,” also was on sale at the event.

Ginsburg and event mod­er­a­tor El­liott Gerson, Aspen’s ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent, were in­tro­duced by Merly Chertoff, di­rec­tor of the in­sti­tute’s Jus­tice and So­ci­ety Pro­gram. Chertoff de­scribed Ginsburg as “an in­ter­net sen­sa­tion” and “the Thur­good Mar­shall of women’s is­sues.”

“You may feel you’re in the pres­ence of a rock star!” she said.

Or per­haps a movie star? It was an­nounced a movie is be­ing made next year in which Ginsburg will be por­trayed by ac­tress Natalie Port­man.

Ginsburg was born March 15, 1933, in Brook­lyn, N.Y., to a work­ing-class fam­ily. Her mother, Celia Bader, who worked in a gar­ment fac­tory to help pay for her brother’s col­lege ed­u­ca­tion, was of par­tic­u­lar in­flu­ence, teach­ing her daugh­ter the value of in­de­pen­dence and a good ed­u­ca­tion.

A fa­mous Ginsburg quote high­lighted this: “My mother told me to be a lady. And to her, that meant be your own per­son, be in­de­pen­dent.”

Sadly, her mother died af­ter a long strug­gle with cancer the day be­fore the fu­ture Supreme Court jus­tice grad­u­ated from high school.

“My mother was a pow­er­ful in­flu­ence. She made me toe the line. If I didn’t have a per­fect re­port card, she showed her dis­ap­point­ment,” Ginsburg said.

She went on to grad­u­ate first in her class at Cor­nell Univer­sity in 1954 with a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in gov­ern­ment. In the mid-1950s, she went to Har­vard Law School as one of nine fe­males in a class of 500 law stu­dents where women were chided by the law dean for tak­ing the places of qual­i­fied males. Even­tu­ally, Ginsburg be­came the first fe­male mem­ber of the pres­ti­gious Har­vard Law Re­view.

She taught at Rut­gers Univer­sity Law School and then at Columbia, where she be­came the school’s first fe­male tenured pro­fes­sor.

Dur­ing the 1970s, she be­came di­rec­tor of the Women’s Rights Project for the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union, for which she ar­gued six land­mark cases on gen­der equal­ity be­fore the U.S. Supreme Court.

In 1980, Pres­i­dent Jimmy Carter ap­pointed Ginsburg to the U.S. Court of Ap­peals of the Dis­trict of Columbia. She cred­ited Carter for be­ing the first pres­i­dent to open the door to fed­eral judge­ships for women.

“Pres­i­dent Carter ap­pointed 25 women to be fed­eral judges, 11 of those to the U.S. Courts of Ap­peals, which I was one of those,” Ginsburg said.

In 1993, Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton se­lected her to be on the U.S. Supreme Court, and she was con­firmed by a vote of 96-3 in the U.S. Se­nate.

“Sen. Or­rin Hatch of Utah was one of my big­gest sup­port­ers dur­ing the con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings, to many peo­ple’s sur­prise,” she said.

She is con­sid­ered part of the Supreme Court’s mod­er­ate-lib­eral bloc, pre­sent­ing a strong voice in fa­vor of gen­der equal­ity, the rights of work­ers and the sep­a­ra­tion of church and state.

One of the first ques­tions asked of her by mod­er­a­tor Gerson was about how well she worked with the late Jus­tice An­tonin Scalia. Scalia and Ginsburg of­ten dis­agreed on many court de­ci­sions.

“He made me laugh, and we both loved opera,” Ginsburg said. “He told me fre­quently, ‘You’d be more per­sua­sive if you’d just tone your ar­gu­ments down.’ Of course, that would never hap­pen!”

As for work­ing with the other jus­tices, Ginsburg said, “We are all one in our rev­er­ence for the Con­sti­tu­tion.”

She said some­one once asked her, “How can you work with Jus­tice Scalia since he is your en­emy/op­po­nent?” She replied, “No, he’s my friend.”

One of her fa­mous quotes again reaf­firms her be­lief that the Supreme Court jus­tices all re­vere the Con­sti­tu­tion and sim­ply have dif­fer­ent in­ter­pre­ta­tions: “You can dis­agree with­out be­ing dis­agree­able.”

Ginsburg shared her opin­ion


About 200 guest are in­vited Wed­nes­day evening, May 24, to an event fea­tur­ing Supreme Court Jus­tice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the Aspen In­sti­tute in Queen­stown.


Supreme Court Jus­tice Ruth Bader Ginsburg an­swers ques­tions Wed­nes­day evening, May 24, at the Aspen In­sti­tute in Queen­stown.

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