Adjunct professor for the Legal Studies Department, Avery Friedman, recently wrote a column for The Plain Dealer on Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's 20 years of service for the Supreme Court. Below is a selection from the article. To read the entire column, click here.
I don’t think she’s five feet tall. It’s unlikely you’d even notice her if you walked by her on the street. Yet even in dissent her most recent pronouncements this summer proved the largest and strongest voice serving on the Supreme Court today. And certainly the most consistent.
Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s appointment, 20 years ago this Saturday, brought to the nation’s highest court a conscience unlike any other. Before her service on the bench, no lawyer in American jurisprudential history advanced the rights of women more. As a civil rights lawyer and law professor in 1971, Ginsburg wrote the brief in Reed v. Reed which changed the constitutional landscape for women. The court ruled unanimously that the Idaho law giving preference to men over women in administering estates violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. She won again two years later in Frontiero v. Richardson. Frontiero was her first Supreme Court oral argument. A law which guaranteed the wife of a military male automatic dependency status for purposes of benefits, but required a military woman to prove her husband’s dependency in order to get benefits, had to be unconstitutional. Eight of the justices agreed. More victories followed.
Life experiences nearly 20 years before colored what young Ruth would do with her life. She was first in her class at Columbia and near the top of her class at Harvard Law. Harvard Law School Dean Al Sacks recommended to then-Associate Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter that he hire this extraordinarily talented young woman. Justice Frankfurter, like all his colleagues on the court in 1960, was not prepared to hire a woman. Nor would the large New York law firms.