Ruth Bader Ginsburg - U.S. Supreme Court Justice

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Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the second woman to be appointed to the United States Supreme Court.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg graduated from Columbia Law School and went on to become a vocal courtroom advocate for women's rights while also working with the ACLU's Women's Rights Project. President Jimmy Carter appointed her to the United States Court of Appeals in 1980, and President Bill Clinton appointed her to the Supreme Court in 1993.


Ruth Bader Ginsburg Early Life and Education

Joan Ruth Bader Ginsburg was born on March 15, 1933, in Brooklyn, New York. She grew up in a low-income, working-class neighbourhood of Brooklyn as the second daughter of Nathan and Celia Bader. Ginsburg's mother, who was a significant influence in her life, instilled in her the importance of independence and a good education.

Celia did not attend college herself, instead working in a garment factory to help pay for her brother's college education, an act of selflessness that impressed Ginsburg. Ginsburg worked hard and excelled in her studies at James Madison High School in Brooklyn. Unfortunately, Ginsburg's mother battled cancer throughout her high school years and died the day before her graduation.


Ruth Bader Ginsburg Personal Life and Husband

Ginsburg graduated first in her class with a bachelor's degree in government from Cornell University in 1954. That same year, she married law student Martin D. Ginsburg. Their first child, Jane, was born shortly after Martin was drafted into the military in 1954, making the early years of their marriage difficult. He served for two years before being discharged, and the couple returned to Harvard, where Ginsburg was also enrolled.

Ginsburg learned to balance her life as a mother and her new role as a law student at Harvard. She also encountered a hostile, male-dominated environment, with only eight other females in her class of over 500 students. The dean of the law school chastised the women for taking the places of qualified males. Ginsburg, on the other hand, persevered and excelled academically, eventually becoming the first female member of the prestigious Harvard Law Review.


Ruth Bader Ginsburg Arguing for Gender Equality

Then came another challenge: Martin was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1956, which necessitated extensive treatment and rehabilitation. Ginsburg cared for her young daughter and ailing husband, taking notes in class for him while continuing her own legal studies. Martin recovered, finished law school, and accepted a job at a New York law firm.

Ginsburg transferred to Columbia Law School to join her husband in New York City, where she was elected to the school's law review. In 1959, she graduated first in her class. Despite her outstanding academic record, Ginsburg faced gender discrimination while looking for work after graduation.

Ginsburg taught at Rutgers University Law School (1963-72) and Columbia University (1972-80), where she became the school's first female tenured professor after clerking for U.S. District Judge Edmund L. Palmieri (1959-61). During the 1970s, she was also the director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Women's Rights Project, for which she argued six landmark cases on gender equality before the United States Supreme Court.

Ginsburg, on the other hand, believed that the law was gender-blind and that all groups were entitled to equal rights. One of the five Supreme Court cases she won involved a section of the Social Security Act that favoured women over men because it provided certain benefits to widows but not widowers.


Ruth Bader Ginsburg On the Supreme Court

Ginsburg was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia by President Jimmy Carter in 1980. She was appointed to the United States Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton in 1993 to fill the seat vacated by Justice Byron White. President Clinton desired a replacement who possessed the intellect and political skills to deal with the Court's more conservative members.

Despite some senators' frustration with Ginsburg's evasive answers to hypothetical situations, the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings were unusually cordial. Several people expressed concern about her ability to transition from social advocate to Supreme Court Justice. In the end, the Senate easily confirmed her, 96-3.

Ginsburg favoured caution, moderation, and restraint as a judge. She was regarded as a member of the Supreme Court's moderate-liberal bloc, providing a strong voice in support of gender equality, worker rights, and the separation of church and state. Ginsburg wrote the landmark decision in United States v. Virginia in 1996, which held that the state-supported Virginia Military Institute could not refuse admission to women. She received the Thurgood Marshall Award from the American Bar Association in 1999 for her contributions to gender equality and civil rights.


'Bush v. Gore'

Despite her reputation for restrained writing, her dissenting opinion in Bush v. Gore, which effectively decided the 2000 presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore, drew considerable attention. In objecting to the court's majority opinion in favour of Bush, Ginsburg concluded her decision with the words "I dissent" ” a significant departure from the traditional use of the adverb "respectfully."

Ginsburg's husband died of cancer on June 27, 2010. Martin was her biggest supporter and "the only young man I dated who cared that I had a brain," she said. Ginsburg and Martin's relationship was said to be out of the ordinary: Martin was gregarious, loved to entertain and tell jokes, whereas Ginsburg was serious, soft-spoken, and shy.

Martin explained their happy marriage: "My wife doesn't give me any cooking advice, and I don't give her any legal advice." She was working on the Court on the last day of the 2010 term, a day after her husband's death.


Ruth Bader Ginsburg Historic Rulings

Ginsburg sided with the majority in two landmark Supreme Court decisions in 2015. In King v. Burwell, she was one of six justices who upheld a key component of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The decision allows the federal government to continue providing subsidies to Americans who purchase health care through "exchanges," whether they are run by states or the federal government. The majority ruling, read by Chief Justice John Roberts, was a massive victory for President Barack Obama and made it difficult to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Conservative justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Antonin Scalia dissent, with Scalia delivering a stinging dissent to the Court. 

On June 26, the Supreme Court issued its second landmark decision in as many days, a 5-4 majority ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states. Ginsburg is thought to have played a role in the decision, having shown public support for the idea in previous years by officiating same-sex marriages and challenging arguments against it during the case's early proceedings. Justices Anthony Kennedy, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan joined her in the majority, with Roberts reading the dissenting opinion this time.


Ruth Bader Ginsburg in Recent Years

Ginsburg famously opposed the possibility of a Donald Trump presidency in 2016, calling him a "faker" at one point before apologizing for publicly commenting on the campaign. After the president released a list of Supreme Court candidates in preparation for the looming retirement of elderly justices, the 84-year-old Ginsburg signaled her commitment to the bench by hiring a full slate of clerks through 2020.

Later in the year, Justice Kennedy, who frequently sided with the court's liberal bloc, announced his retirement at the end of July, though Ginsburg revealed at the time that she hoped to stay for at least another five years.


Ruth Bader Ginsburg Book and 'RBG' Movie

Ginsburg published My Own Words in 2016, a memoir containing writings dating back to her junior high school years. The book went on to become a New York Times Best Seller.

Ginsburg attended the Sundance Film Festival in January 2018 to attend the premiere of the documentary RBG. In reference to the #MeToo movement, she recalled having to put up with the advances of a Cornell University professor. She also endorsed Kate McKinnon's sassy portrayal of her on Saturday Night Live, saying, "I'd like to say 'Ginsburned' to my colleagues sometimes."

Ginsburg expanded on her thoughts on the #MeToo movement in an interview with Poppy Harlow at Columbia University in February, saying its "staying power" would allow it to survive a backlash. She also defended the value of a free press and an independent judiciary, both of which have been questioned during Trump's presidency.

Ginsburg achieved another career milestone in April 2018 when she assigned a majority opinion for the first time in her 25 years on the bench. The decision in Sessions v. Dimaya, which drew attention due to conservative Neil Gorsuch's decision to vote with his liberal colleagues, invalidated a provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act that allowed the deportation of any foreign national convicted of a "crime of violence." Ginsburg eventually delegated the task of writing the opinion to Elena Kagan, who held seniority among the majority.


Ruth Bader Ginsburg Health

Ginsburg had several health scares after being appointed to the bench, including colon cancer, pancreatic cancer, and lung cancer surgery. She was admitted to the hospital in November 2018 after falling in her office and breaking three ribs.

In May 2020, one day after the Court heard arguments via teleconference for the first time due to the coronavirus pandemic, it was announced that the senior justice had been hospitalized for the second time to undergo nonsurgical treatment for a gallbladder infection.

Ginsburg revealed in July 2020 that she was undergoing chemotherapy for a "recurrence of cancer" on her liver, which was "yielding positive results."


Ruth Bader Ginsburg Death

Ginsburg died of complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer on September 18, 2020, at her home in Washington, D.C.

"Our country has lost a historic jurist," Roberts said in a statement. "The Supreme Court has lost a dear colleague." Today, we mourn, but we are confident that future generations will remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg as we did ” as a tireless and tenacious champion of justice."

Ginsburg was laid to rest in the Capitol Rotunda on September 25. She will be the first female Supreme Court Justice and the second in history to receive this honor. On September 23 and 24, Ginsburg was also laid to rest at the Supreme Court.

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