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We are deeply saddened by the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justice Ginsburg was a champion for justice during her 27 years on the Court, and she has been the leading voice for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality throughout her tenure. She will be dearly missed as one of our nation and our legal field’s most consistent and principled voices for justice for all. She dedicated her career to the causes that drive both our organization and members of our staff.
- Ginsburg graduated from Columbia University Law School in 1959, tied for first in her class, but then had difficulty finding employment because of her gender.
- She held a US District Court clerkship and conducted research on Swedish civil procedure (for which she learned to speak Swedish), became a Professor at Rutgers Law School, and then was told that she would be paid less than her male colleagues.
In 1972 she became the first woman tenured professor at Columbia Law School. She also co-founded the Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU, becoming General Counsel in 1973 and arguing six gender discrimination cases before the Supreme Court between 1973 and 1976. She won five of the six. Working as Thurgood Marshall had done in race discrimination cases, she devised an incremental legal strategy, challenging specific discriminatory statutes and building on each successive victory. She demonstrated that gender discrimination was harmful to us all.
In 1980, Ginsburg was appointed to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.
And in 1993 to the US Supreme Court, becoming the second female Justice in US history confirmed by the US Senate on a vote of 96 to 3.
We admire Justice Ginsburg for her keen intellect, her determination in the face of injustice, and for her eloquence in majority and in dissent. She was personally close to people who agreed with her and with many who did not, notably Antonin Scalia. Her powerful marriage and commitment to family have become a motivating example of how to succeed and strike a balance as a devoted spouse and mother and a tireless professional simultaneously.
She was an inspiration for her own family as well. Both her daughter, Jane Ginsberg, and granddaughter, Clara Spera, went on to law school. Clara currently works at the ACLU advocating to expand reproductive care for low-income women. Spera notes that “no one has guided and inspired me more than my grandmother.”
Late in her life, Ginsburg became a cultural icon. Younger generations, many of our staff members included, followed “Notorious RBG’s” footsteps and legacy to law school and the fight for justice.
Justice Ginsburg’s activism as a lawyer and Justice paved the way for much of the Advocacy Center’s work today, including, for example, her fierce advocacy for equal protection with respect to the Social Security Act and her continued support for the Affordable Care Act.
We will not lose sight of the enduring legacy Ruth Bader Ginsburg leaves behind, and we should embrace her determination to work toward opportunity and justice.
As her death came during the celebration of Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, I recall her words during services of that celebration years ago,
“We are taught to do right, to love mercy, do justice, not because there’s going to be any reward in heaven or punishment in hell. We live righteously because that’s how people should live.”
Justice Ginsburg passed on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, saved for the most righteous of people signifying she was given the full measure of the year. Justice Ginsburg gave to all of us the full measure of herself and for that we are all truly blessed.
That is her legacy. She lived each day righteously, in pursuit of equality and justice for all, not for any accolades, but because it was the right and just thing to do. And in this she set perhaps the greatest example of all, that each of us, no matter our position or stature, can pursue these ideals in our own lives, “because that’s how people should live.”
May we all live up to her challenge. May her memory be an inspiration
Ken Schorr, Executive Director