Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Quotes

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A constitution, as important as it is, will mean nothing unless the people are yearning for liberty and freedom.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
We may be anxious to reduce crime, but we should remember that in our system of justice, the presumption of innocence is prime, and the law cannot apply one rule to Joe who is a good man, and another to John, who is a hardened criminal.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg (My Own Words)
RBG looked the justices in the eye and quoted Sarah Grimké, the abolitionist and advocate for women’s suffrage. “She spoke not elegantly, but with unmistakable clarity,” RBG said. “She said, ‘I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.
Irin Carmon (Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg)
RBG’s old friend Gloria Steinem, who marvels at seeing the justice’s image all over campuses, is happy to see RBG belie Steinem’s own long-standing observation: “Women lose power with age, and men gain it.” Historically, one way women have lost power is by being nudged out the door to make room for someone else.
Irin Carmon (Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg)
In Greek mythology, Pallas Athena was celebrated as the goddess of reason and justice.1 To end the cycle of violence that began with Agamemnon’s sacrifice of his daughter, Iphigenia, Athena created a court of justice to try Orestes, thereby installing the rule of law in lieu of the reign of vengeance.2 Recall also the biblical Deborah (from the Book of Judges).3 She was at the same time prophet, judge, and military leader. This triple-headed authority was exercised by only two other Israelites, both men: Moses and Samuel. People came from far and wide to seek Deborah’s judgment. According to the rabbis, Deborah was independently wealthy; thus she could afford to work pro bono.4 Even if its members knew nothing of Athena and Deborah, the U.S. legal establishment resisted admitting women into its ranks far too long.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg (My Own Words)
They're not a question of additional benefits. I mean, they touch every aspect of life. Your partner is sick. Social Security. I mean, it's pervasive. It's not as though, well, there's this little Federal sphere and it's only a tax question. It's as Justice Kennedy said, 1100 statutes, and it affects every area of life. And so he was really diminishing what the State has said is marriage. You're saying, no, State said two kinds of marriage; the full marriage, and then this sort of skim milk marriage.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
exuberant presence of Justice Scalia, the Court is “a paler place.” The two cases at the top of Justice Ginsburg’s most
Ruth Bader Ginsburg (My Own Words)
Justice Sandra Day O’Connor: For both men and women the first step in getting power is to become visible to others, and then to put on an impressive show. . . . As women achieve power, the barriers will fall. As society sees what women can do, as women see what women can do, there will be more women out there doing things, and we’ll all be better off for it.XII
Ruth Bader Ginsburg (My Own Words)
August 19, 1981: President Ronald Reagan nominates Sandra Day O’Connor to be the first woman on the Supreme Court. Male justices who had made noises over the years about resigning if a woman ever joined their ranks stay put.
Irin Carmon (Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg)
Her time was almost up. RBG looked the justices in the eye and quoted Sarah Grimké, the abolitionist and advocate for women’s suffrage. “She spoke not elegantly, but with unmistakable clarity,” RBG said. “She said, ‘I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.
Irin Carmon (Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg)
The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice,” she said. But then she added her own words: “if there is a steadfast commitment to see the task through to completion.
Irin Carmon (Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg)
This 2005 opinion reveals a white supremacist legal opinion written by the United States Supreme Court that reiterates the highly problematic M’Intosh verdict written nearly two hundred years earlier. The opinion in the 2005 case, City of Sherrill v. Oneida Indian Nation of N. Y., was written and delivered by the iconic progressive Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Mark Charles (Unsettling Truths: The Ongoing, Dehumanizing Legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery)
Many feminist legal scholars, including Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, have argued that the Supreme Court should have legalized abortion on grounds of equality rather than privacy.6 Pregnancy and childbirth are not only physical and medical experiences, after all. They are also social experiences that, in modern America, just as when abortion was criminalized in the 1870s, serve to restrict women’s ability to participate in society on equal footing with men.
Katha Pollitt (Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights)
nascent, underfunded Supreme Court. Recent biographies of the great Chief Justice tell how John Marshall used the camaraderie of boardinghouse tables and common rooms, also madeira, to dispel dissent and achieve the one-voiced Opinion of the Court, which he usually composed and delivered himself. The unanimity John Marshall strived to maintain helped the swordless Third Branch fend off attacks from the political branches.9 Although Chief Justice Marshall strictly separated his Court and family life, he did not lack affection for his wife. In a letter from Philadelphia in 1797, John Marshall told Polly of his longing. “I like [the big city] well enough for a day or two,” he wrote Polly, “but I then
Ruth Bader Ginsburg (My Own Words)
When RBG fretted over the first dry opinion the chief justice assigned her, O'Connor gave her a pep talk. As RBG read that opinion on the bench, O'Connor, who had dissented in the case, passed her a note. "This is your first opinion for the Court," she had written. "It is a fine one, I look forward to many more." Remembering the comfort that note gave her on such a nerve wracking day, RBG did the same for the next two women to join the court, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
Irin Carmon (Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg)
From her days as an advocate to her days as a justice, Ginsburg insisted that men and women would be truly equal only when they took equal responsibility for child rearing. She wrote as early as 1972 that “child rearing, as distinguished from child bearing, does not involve a physical characteristic unique to one sex,
Jeffrey Rosen (Conversations with RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life, Love, Liberty, and Law)
[Ruth Bader] Ginsburg, the former women's rights advocate, made sure the nation knew she was there, even if alone. When President Obama addressed a joint session of Congress for the first time in February 2009, Ginsburg was recovering from pancreatic cancer and chemotherapy treatments, but she dragged herself to the evening event and sat with her brethren. She said she wanted to make sure that people watching the nationally televised address saw that the Supreme Court had at least one woman.
Joan Biskupic (Breaking in: The Rise of Sonia Sotomayor and the Politics of Justice)
She viewed her advocacy not as a crusade for abstract principles but as a fight for justice for individual men and women disadvantaged by laws that discriminated on the basis of sex.
Jeffrey Rosen (Conversations with RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life, Love, Liberty, and Law)
So, my objective was to take the Court step by step to the realization, in Justice Brennan’s words, that the pedestal on which some thought women were standing all too often turned out to be a cage.
Jeffrey Rosen (Conversations with RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life, Love, Liberty, and Law)
Ginsburg appreciated that Rehnquist assigned the most interesting cases on the basis not of ideology but of which justices had completed their previous assignments on time.
Jeffrey Rosen (Conversations with RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life, Love, Liberty, and Law)
You know, the Court is not like a legislature; we don’t vote a particular way because we would like that outcome. We have to account for everything we do by giving reasons for it. So there’s no cross-trading at all on the Court. What there can be is, instead of deciding the great big issue, we can agree on a lower ground, on a procedural issue, perhaps. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was a grand master at that—getting the Court to come together on a ground on which we could agree, and defer the bigger battle for another day.
Jeffrey Rosen (Conversations with RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life, Love, Liberty, and Law)
I should explain how things work at the Court. When the Court is sitting, we sit two weeks in a row; we meet on Wednesday afternoon to talk about Monday’s cases, and on Friday morning to talk about Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s cases. The chief starts by summarizing a case and then expressing his tentative vote. When all of us have had our say, the chief justice will give us our homework. That is, he will assign people to write the opinions from the sitting. When he’s not in the majority, the most senior justice in the majority has that job. Maybe twice a term, the opinion will come out not as the conference voted initially, but on the other side.
Jeffrey Rosen (Conversations with RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life, Love, Liberty, and Law)
I ran into Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, walking slowly but with steely determination. If I had won, she might have enjoyed a nice retirement. Now I hoped she’d stay on the bench as long as humanly possible.
Hillary Rodham Clinton (What Happened)
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg vs. Judge Judy [10w] Justice Ginsburg ain't got half the chutzpah of Judge Judy.
Beryl Dov
No one would have disputed [Ruth Bader Ginsburg's] intellect and seriousness, but the woman who wore her hair pulled back tightly in a short ponytail had a soft voice and had trouble looking people in the eye. She was also known for being so serious that as a youngster her daughter, Jane, made a booklet called 'Mommy Laughs' that recounted the rare episodes when her mother revealed her sense of humor.
Joan Biskupic (Breaking in: The Rise of Sonia Sotomayor and the Politics of Justice)
The debate among feminists about pregnancy benefits has had dramatic implications for the legal status of the right to choose abortion itself. As Ginsburg noted in a 1986 article, “The characterization of pregnancy discrimination as sex discrimination, requires the comparative analysis of the equal protection model. Its emphasis is on what is not unique about the reproductive process of women.” By contrast, the difference that feminists focus on is what is unique about childbirth. They advocate special treatment for pregnant women based on their premise that men and women are not “similarly situated” because of their reproductive differences. This was the same premise that Justice Stewart had invoked in his 1974 holding that discrimination against pregnant women is permissible. That’s why Ginsburg’s insistence that discrimination on the basis of pregnancy is a form of discrimination on the basis of sex is so central to her search for alternatives to the right to privacy, which does not appear explicitly in the Constitution, as a firm legal basis for protecting women’s reproductive rights. Ginsburg has been far more willing to enforce privacy rights for women when they can be tied to the text of the Constitution, such as the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures.
Jeffrey Rosen (Conversations with RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life, Love, Liberty, and Law)
Well, the more women—this is something that Justice O’Connor often said, that women of our age should get out there and make a good show, and that will encourage other women, and the more women that are out there doing things, the better off all of us will be.
Jeffrey Rosen (Conversations with RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life, Love, Liberty, and Law)
That January day, on an empty stomach and with Brooklyn vowels still in her voice, RBG spoke for ten minutes without a single interruption from the justices. She had stunned them into silence.
Irin Carmon (Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg)
A Hard Left For High-School History The College Board version of our national story BY STANLEY KURTZ | 1215 words AT the height of the “culture wars” of the late 1980s and early 1990s, conservatives were alive to the dangers of a leftist takeover of American higher education. Today, with the coup all but complete, conservatives take the loss of the academy for granted and largely ignore it. Meanwhile, America’s college-educated Millennial generation drifts ever farther leftward. Now, however, an ambitious attempt to force a leftist tilt onto high-school U.S.-history courses has the potential to shake conservatives out of their lethargy, pulling them back into the education wars, perhaps to retake some lost ground. The College Board, the private company that develops the SAT and Advanced Placement (AP) exams, recently ignited a firestorm by releasing, with little public notice, a lengthy, highly directive, and radically revisionist “framework” for teaching AP U.S. history. The new framework replaces brief guidelines that once allowed states, school districts, and teachers to present U.S. history as they saw fit. The College Board has promised to generate detailed guidelines for the entire range of AP courses (including government and politics, world history, and European history), and in doing so it has effectively set itself up as a national school board. Dictating curricula for its AP courses allows the College Board to circumvent state standards, virtually nationalizing America’s high schools, in violation of cherished principles of local control. Unchecked, this will result in a high-school curriculum every bit as biased and politicized as the curriculum now dominant in America’s colleges. Not coincidentally, David Coleman, the new head of the College Board, is also the architect of the Common Core, another effort to effectively nationalize American K–12 education, focusing on English and math skills. As president of the College Board, Coleman has found a way to take control of history, social studies, and civics as well, pushing them far to the left without exposing himself to direct public accountability. Although the College Board has steadfastly denied that its new AP U.S. history (APUSH) guidelines are politically biased, the intellectual background of the effort indicates otherwise. The early stages of the APUSH redesign overlapped with a collaborative venture between the College Board and the Organization of American Historians to rework U.S.-history survey courses along “internationalist” lines. The goal was to undercut anything that smacked of American exceptionalism, the notion that, as a nation uniquely constituted around principles of liberty and equality, America stands as a model of self-government for the world. Accordingly, the College Board’s new framework for AP U.S. history eliminates the traditional emphasis on Puritan leader John Winthrop’s “City upon a Hill” sermon and its echoes in American history. The Founding itself is demoted and dissolved within a broader focus on transcontinental developments, chiefly the birth of an exploitative international capitalism grounded in the slave trade. The Founders’ commitment to republican principles is dismissed as evidence of a benighted belief in European cultural superiority. Thomas Bender, the NYU historian who leads the Organization of American Historians’ effort to globalize and denationalize American history, collaborated with the high-school and college teachers who eventually came to lead the College Board’s APUSH redesign effort. Bender frames his movement as a counterpoint to the exceptionalist perspective that dominated American foreign policy during the George W. Bush ad ministration. Bender also openly hopes that students exposed to his approach will sympathize with Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s willingness to use foreign law to interpret the U.S. Constitution rather than with Justice Antonin Scalia�
Anonymous
She wanted to teach the justices that the very notion of “sugar and spice and everything nice” limited the opportunities and aspirations of their daughters. One way to do that was to show how seemingly benign gender classifications harmed men as well as women.
Teri Kanefield (Free to Be Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The Story of Women and Law)
When you say you have ‘no available graduates’ whom you could recommend for appointment as my clerk, do you include women? It is possible I may decide to take one, if I can find one who is absolutely first-rate.” —Justice William O. Douglas, 1944
Irin Carmon (Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg)
If only the court had acted more slowly,’ RBG said, and cut down one state law at a time the way she had gotten them to do with the jury and benefit cases. The justices could have been persuaded to build an architecture of women’s equality that could house reproductive freedom. She said the very boldness of Roe, striking down all abortion bans until viability, had ‘halted a political process that was moving in a reform direction and thereby, I believe, prolonged divisiveness and deferred stable settlement of the issue. (85).
Irin Carmon (Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg)
asked by Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times about the fact that in that same term, the number of female clerks fell to single digits for the first time in more than a decade. Only seven women would be among the thirty-seven clerks, and two of them were working for RBG. Why not ask a justice who had hired no women? suggested RBG. That would be Alito, Souter, Scalia, and Thomas.
Irin Carmon (Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg)
constitutional revision commission. Simultaneously, Smith was becoming more involved with his profession through the American Bar Association. He met and became close to Lewis Powell of Virginia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg of New York, future justices on the U.S. Supreme Court. He says, “Powell appointed me to a committee called Availability of Legal Services. We made sure people who needed legal representation and didn’t know where to turn or couldn’t afford a lawyer, that those people could get a lawyer.” It was a radical idea at the time, but it changed the face of American law, leading to more pro bono work within established firms, legal ombudsmen, and the Legal
Tom Brokaw (The Greatest Generation)
constitutional revision commission. Simultaneously, Smith was becoming more involved with his profession through the American Bar Association. He met and became close to Lewis Powell of Virginia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg of New York, future justices on the U.S. Supreme Court. He says, “Powell appointed me to a committee
Tom Brokaw (The Greatest Generation)
I think when it’s wrong,” Scalia says, “it should be destroyed.” But no one, probably least of all Supreme Court justices, changes her or his mind after being called an idiot. Actually changing the law means getting to five votes.
Irin Carmon (Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg)
RBG’s image as a moderate was clinched in March 1993, in a speech she gave at New York University known as the Madison Lecture. Sweeping judicial opinions, she told the audience, packed with many of her old New York friends, were counterproductive. Popular movements and legislatures had to first spur social change, or else there would be a backlash to the courts stepping in. As case in point, RBG chose an opinion that was very personal to plenty of people listening: Roe v. Wade. The right had been aiming to overturn Roe for decades, and they’d gotten very close only months before the speech with Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Justices Anthony Kennedy, David Souter, and Sandra Day O’Connor had instead brokered a compromise, allowing states to put restrictions on abortion as long as they didn’t pose an “undue burden” on women—or ban it before viability. Neither side was thrilled, but Roe was safe, at least for the moment. Just as feminists had caught their breath, RBG declared that Roe itself was the problem. If only the court had acted more slowly, RBG said, and cut down one state law at a time the way she had gotten them to do with the jury and benefit cases. The justices could have been persuaded to build an architecture of women’s equality that could house reproductive freedom. She said the very boldness of Roe, striking down all abortion bans until viability, had “halted a political process that was moving in a reform direction and thereby, I believe, prolonged divisiveness and deferred stable settlement of the issue.” This analysis remains controversial among historians, who say the political process of abortion access had stalled before Roe. Meanwhile, the record shows that there was no overnight eruption after Roe. In 1975, two years after the decision, no senator asked Supreme Court nominee John Paul Stevens about abortion. But Republicans, some of whom had been pro-choice, soon learned that being the anti-abortion party promised gains. And even if the court had taken another path, women’s sexual liberation and autonomy might have still been profoundly unsettling. Still, RBG stuck to her guns, in the firm belief that lasting change is incremental. For the feminists and lawyers listening to her Madison Lecture, RBG’s argument felt like a betrayal. At dinner after the lecture, Burt Neuborne remembers, other feminists tore into their old friend. “They felt that Roe was so precarious, they were worried such an expression from Ruth would lead to it being overturned,” he recalls. Not long afterward, when New York senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan suggested to Clinton that RBG be elevated to the Supreme Court, the president responded, “The women are against her.” Ultimately, Erwin Griswold’s speech, with its comparison to Thurgood Marshall, helped convince Clinton otherwise. It was almost enough for RBG to forgive Griswold for everything else.
Irin Carmon (Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg)
A question I am often asked: What does women’s participation in numbers on the bench add to our judicial system? It is true, as Jeanne Coyne of Minnesota's Supreme Court famously said: at the end of the day, a wise old man and a wise old woman will reach the same decision. But it is also true that women, like persons of different racial groups and ethnic origins, contribute what the late Fifth Circuit Judge Alvin Rubin described as “a distinctive medley of views influenced by differences in biology, cultural impact, and life experience.” Our system of justice is surely richer for the diversity of background and experience of its judges. It was poorer when nearly all of its participants were cut from the same mold.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg (My Own Words)
Our system of justice is surely richer for the diversity of background and experience of its judges. It was poorer when nearly all of its participants were cut from the same mold.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg (My Own Words)
Like Mildred Loving, I have lived long enough to see big changes. Who would believe, for example, in the 1950s when Justice O’Connor and I graduated from law school, that two women no law firm would hire simply because we were women, would one day be seated on the highest Court in the land?
Ruth Bader Ginsburg (My Own Words)
am comforted, at such times, by a comment made by Chief Justice Hughes, who presided from 1930 until 1941. Hughes said that during the many years he served on the Court he always tried to write his opinions logically and clearly, but if another Justice whose vote was necessary to make a majority insisted that particular language be put in, in it went, and let the law schools figure out what it meant!
Ruth Bader Ginsburg (My Own Words)
Fight for the things you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg