Klinedinst joins the nation in mourning the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justice Ginsburg had a long and distinguished career. As an attorney, her reputation as a fierce advocate for gender equality was well-earned. She participated in hundreds of gender discrimination cases, and argued six of them before the Supreme Court that she would one day serve. She served thirteen years as appellate court justice for the United States District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals, before being appointed to the highest court in the United States, where she served for twenty-seven years.
As an attorney, Justice Ginsberg achieved success challenging an Idaho law that required probate courts to appoint men to administer probate estates, writing the brief that convinced a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court to hold the law was unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. (See Reed v. Reed (1971) 404 U.S. 1971). The Reed case paved the way for Ginsberg’s winning arguments in future cases that struck down laws based on gender, including laws that created different standards for age of consent, drinking ages, and right to government benefits. As a Supreme Court Justice, she continued to support gender equality, penning key decisions, including United States v. Virginia (1996) 518 U.S. 515, in which the Supreme Court struck down the male-only admission policy of the Virginia Military Institute.
In recognition of her commitment to gender equality, the American Bar Association presented her with the Thurgood Marshall Award in 1999. She was also presented with the ABA’s highest recognition, the American Bar Association Medal in 2010.
Justice Ginsberg believed in the power of friendship and debate from all sides of the political spectrum, and the importance of collegiality in the legal profession, actively leading by example. Much has been written about Justice Ginsburg’s close friendship with late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. While from an ideological perspective, the two were polar opposites, they respected each other’s viewpoint and valued the debate and discourse. Eugene Scalia, Justice Scalia’s son described his father’s relationship with Justice Ginsberg in a September 19, 2020 Op-Ed in The Washington Post:
“The two justices had central roles in addressing some of the most divisive issues of the day, including cases on abortion, same-sex marriage and who would be president. Not for a moment did one think the other should be condemned or ostracized. More than that, they believed that what they were doing — arriving at their own opinions thoughtfully and advancing them vigorously — was essential to the national good. With less debate, their friendship would have been diminished, and so, they believed, would our democracy.”
Regardless of political perspective or values, the democracy that we value and cherish as a nation was made better by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. We honor her memory, her dedication to gender equality, and her unwavering commitment to protecting justice and the rule of law.
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