In Part 1, we introduced you to the first of four female Supreme Court Justices, Sandra Day O’Connor. History had its eyes on Justice O’Connor, which also meant that that the women who were appointed to the bench after her had to continue the legacy and hold their own. Enter Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
The Notorious RBG, as she’s commonly known by the internet and millennials, gained immense popularity in 2013 after her fiery dissent in Shelby County v. Holder.
Justice Ginsburg graduated from Cornell University at the top of her class. After Cornell she attended Harvard Law School but later transferred to Columbia Law School. While enrolled at Harvard, RBG was one of nine women in her incoming class of about 500. She, like Justice O’Connor, faced her fair share of criticism for “taking the place of qualified males.” Of course, she shut down those naysayers by excelling academically and becoming the first female member of Harvard’s prestigious Law Review.
Despite having an outstanding academic record in law school, RBG was met with outright gender discrimination whilst looking for employment. This blatant disrespect became the catalyst for her passionate fight for gender equality. During the 1970s, she served as the co-founder and director of the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. During this time RBG argued six landmark cases on gender equality before the U.S. Supreme Court. Foreshadowing, much?
President Clinton nominated Justice Ginsburg to the Supreme Court in 1993 and she’s been slaying ever since. Much like Justice O’Connor, she too refused to fall victim to cancer. Just six years after her appointment to the bench, Justice Ginsburg was diagnosed with colon cancer and underwent surgery followed by chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Yet, in true Ginsburg fashion, she did not miss a day on the bench! She once mentioned in an interview that Justice O’Connor recommended she schedule her chemotherapy appointments for Friday afternoons so that she could recover over the weekend and be back on the bench by Monday mornings. Talk about some serious girl power.
Most Notable Decisions
United States v. Virginia [518 U.S. 515 (1996)] – Ginsburg wrote the decision in this landmark case which held that the state-supported Virginia Military Institute could not refuse to admit women.
Ledbetter v. Goodyear [550 U.S. 618 (2007)] – This case was an employment discrimination decision where the plaintiff Lily Ledbetter sued over unequal pay in comparison to her male colleagues. The Supreme Court held that employers cannot be sued under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 over gender pay discrimination if the claim is brought past 180 days of the discriminatory act. The important thing to note here is that Justice Ginsburg’s clear and concise dissent called out Congress to “correct the error into which the court has fallen.” Congress then created the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in record time.
King v. Burwell [576 U.S. ___ (2015)] – Better known as the Obamacare case, the decision allows the federal government to continue providing subsidies to Americans who purchase health care through “exchanges,” regardless of whether they are state or federally operated. This was a huge victory for President Obama.
Obergefell v. Hodges [135 S. Ct. 2071 (2015)] – Aka #LoveWins. Ginsburg was instrumental in the decision, having previously shown public support in past years by being the first Justice to officiate same-sex marriages. She also confidently challenged arguments against it during the early stages of the case.
Justice Ginsburg adores President Obama, but on one occasion she peaced out early from a dinner at the White House to go work out at the gym with her trainer.