Remembering Justice Ginsburg
As we join the nation in mourning the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, we would also like to mark her extraordinary life and career in the law. Justice Ginsburg served a remarkable 27 years on the U.S. Supreme Court, after serving on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and teaching law at Rutgers Law School and Columbia Law School, where she became the school’s first tenured female professor. She also served as general counsel of the American Civil Liberties Union and was a co-founder of the ACLU Women’s Rights Project.
As part of our Judicial Relations team, I’ve been fortunate to have had some memorable interactions and conversations with Justice Ginsburg over the years as our paths crossed, mainly through organizations and events that help educate or promote various aspects of the judicial system. At almost every reception or lecture, it was intriguing to watch seasoned jurists and academics politely maneuver to meet and spend a moment with her. She was unfailingly kind, gracious and accommodating. Yet she was the judicial equivalent of a rock star.
Her address to the 10th Circuit Bench and Bar Conference in 2010 particularly stands out. Her husband, Marty, a well-respected tax attorney, had been invited to deliver the keynote address at the conference, but sadly, he died of cancer shortly before the event. Justice Ginsburg surprised many by not only attending, but also delivering the speech Mr. Ginsburg had written. It was funny, poignant and beautifully delivered by the justice, and her courageous performance left many in the hall in tears.
Last summer, we were privileged to air a series of podcasts of Justice Ginsburg being interviewed by Professor Arthur Miller of the New York University School of Law. The two had been friends since they were classmates at Harvard Law School. The justice reflected on her career, her journey from being an attorney arguing cases before nine male Supreme Court justices in the 1970s to becoming the second woman justice to sit on the high court, and her experience serving on the court for nearly three decades.
In her chambers prior to recording the podcasts, she shared memorabilia she had received from her adoring fans, including a collection of ornately decorated judicial collars they hoped she would wear when issuing her famously articulate and occasionally fiery opinions.
She remarked about the pop culture icon status she had acquired, thanks to social media and the “RBG” documentary, and her popular “Notorious R.B.G.” moniker. “I’m 86 years old, and everyone wants to have their picture taken with me,” she marveled.
Public notoriety aside, Justice Ginsburg will be remembered for her countless contributions to the advancement of law, and beyond that, her kindness, generosity and willingness to lead and teach others about the ideals of the law.
This guest post was written by Tom Leighton, vice president of Content Operations at Thomson Reuters.