Ruth Bader Ginsburg- Her Legacy and Passing
By Paige Francis
Ruth Bader Ginsburg - American icon
Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG) was a fighter. She never missed a day of oral arguments, while on the Supreme Court, even while she had cancer. RBG was an advocate for women’s rights and strived to create equality in America. Unfortunately, on Friday, September 18th, 2020 Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away. This wasn’t only a loss to the people closest to her, but a loss to the Supreme Court, the women of America, and anyone else whose life has been made easier due to one of her cases. Ginsburg’s legacy will be remembered throughout history.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg wasn’t always a respected person and like many others, she had to prove herself. Ginsburg attended Harvard Law, while simultaneously caring for a child and helping her husband, who had testicular cancer, with his schooling as well. Despite her hard work, she was ridiculed for “taking a man’s spot at Harvard Law.” (Ginsburg was one of nine women out of a 500 person class.) Even with all of these personal struggles, Ginsburg remained at the top of her class and was also the first female member of the Harvard Law Review. RBG had one year of law school left and transferred to Columbia Law School. While at Columbia, she served on the law review again. In 1959, Ruth Bader Ginsburg graduated from Columbia Law first in her class. Now, all she had to do was find a job. Theoretically, this should be easy considering her academic achievements and work, while in law school. But, it wasn’t easy. RBG was still a woman, and at the time, it was very difficult for women to find work. Finally, one of her favorite professors from Columbia helped her get a job as a clerk under the U.S. District Judge Edmund L. Palmieri.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg clerked under Judge Palmieri for two years. After her clerking job, she was offered jobs at other law firms, but Ginsburg noticed the salary of these jobs was a lot less than her male counterparts. Instead of taking a job at these law firms without equality, Ginsburg took some time to pursue her other passion, civil procedure. She chose to join the Columbia Project on International Civil Procedure. While working on this project, she was able to study abroad and she became immersed in the Swedish culture. RBG was also doing research for her book on Swedish Civil Procedure practices. When she returned to the United States, in 1963, Ruth took a job as a professor at Rutgers University Law School. She kept this teaching position until 1972, when she switched schools and began teaching at Columbia. (While at Columbia she became the first female professor to earn a tenure.) In the 1970s Ginsburg directed the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. While in this position, she led the fight against gender discrimination and argued six landmark cases to the Supreme Court. Oyez.org states that “Ginsburg took a broad look at gender discrimination, fighting not just for the women left behind, but for the men who were discriminated against as well.” Ginsburg accepted Jimmy Carter’s appointment onto the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 1980. RBG served on the court for thirteen years until 1993. Bill Clinton appointed Ruth onto the Supreme Court of the United States. This is when Ruth’s career as a justice fighting for women’s rights began.
“Ruth Bader Ginsburg began her career as a justice where she left off as an advocate, fighting for women’s rights.” (Oyez.org) Ginsburg wrote the majority opinion in the United States v. Virginia in 1996. This opinion asserted that qualified women could not be denied admission to the Virginia Military Institute. Ginsburg also dissented in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. where a female worker was being paid significantly less than her male counterparts. The woman sued under Title VII, but she was denied relief under a statute of limitations issue. The facts from this case mixed RBG’s passion for the federal procedure and gender discrimination and “broke with tradition and wrote a highly colloquial version of her dissent to read from the bench.” (Oyez.org) Ginsburg called for Congress to undo the improper interpretation of the law in her dissent. After this, she worked with former President Obama to pass the first piece of legislation he signed. This was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 and a copy of it hangs in Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s office.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death brought up a lot of questions about the future of the Supreme Court. Senate Majority Mitch McConnell said Friday evening after her death, "President Trump's nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate." However, before Ruth passed away she told her granddaughter this: "My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.” This was RBG’s dying wish and it wasn’t respected. Ruth Bader Ginsburg requested to not be replaced until there was a new President elected. Mitch McConnell did not allow this and allowed the Republican party to nominate and prepare to swear in a new person for the Supreme Court. Donald Trump chose Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his Supreme Court nominee. (She is currently in the process of being sworn in.) The Democratic party was not happy about this because of previous circumstances. While Barack Obama was President, Antonin Scalia passed away, while on the Supreme Court. Obama wanted to elect a new member onto the Supreme Court, but the Republican party wouldn’t let him and they told Obama to let the next President decide. Clearly, the same methods are not being applied in this election year. Ruth Bader Ginsburg should’ve had her wish respected, especially after everything she has done for this country. It is very unfortunate that her wish isn’t being respected, when it’s the least politicians could do. RBG and Amy Coney Barrett are almost completely different. Barrett is very conservative and has different views on women’s rights, health care ect. than RGB had. It is a possibility that with another conservative on the Supreme Court, a lot of RGB’s work could become undone.